Mental wellness continues to feature prominently in many people’s daily lives due to the events of the past two years. And along with this, we’re seeing the mindset towards physical activity shift from wanting to go all out in the gym to taking a more mindful approach to exercise.

We know that gentler activities like yoga, tai chi and stretching help reduce stress levels and improve concentration, which is why their popularity continues to grow as many begin to see fitness as a haven for both body and mind. And it doesn’t just have to be with these modalities that you find mindful movement, you can simply take techniques like controlled breathing and meditation and apply them before, during or after any exercise.

It is a relaxation and meditation technique that comes from Buddhism that helps to reduce stress very effectively.

*Learn about the benefits Fitbit experts tell us about combining the two and tips on how to integrate them into your exercise routine:

The year 2020 brought new stressors and many changes that continue today, including when, how and why people become active. The days of going all out in the gym are receding into the background as people realize that an intense workout is less appealing when they’re feeling stressed. Instead, they want their exercise to double as stress relief, and the best way to do that is by instilling mindfulness.

While there is a benefit to pressing play on your favorite playlist and getting distracted during a workout, being too distracted can cause you to lose connection with your movement and therefore make your exercise less effective and less mentally beneficial.

Consciously sweating not only improves your technique, it can also improve your mental health. Being aware of how you feel before, during or after a workout can help you understand the changes that occur during exercise both physically and mentally. Plus, it allows you to truly embrace the endorphin-induced bliss that occurs immediately after exercise.

Before you start a workout, set an intention. Having something to focus on during a difficult part of training reminds you of what you’re working towards and therefore is something you feel good about.

“Say something like, ‘I take a mindful approach to my exercise and my life,’” says Lucas. “Recite this mantra every morning as soon as you wake up. What I tell clients is why not have our subconscious help us with how we want to live.”

Being more present with your breath helps you become aware of your movement. “Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose and see how long you can hold your attention on the cold air coming in and the warm air going out,” Lucas suggests.

“After practicing a basic breathing practice, you can more intentionally apply your mindful focus to your training and to each exercise in your program. In your next workout, pause before a challenging exercise and take a couple of light, slow, low breaths.”

Practicing mindfulness during an exercise can be tricky, as our minds tend to shut down or, for example, start thinking about our to-do list. Although this is normal, try to refocus on your exercise when you lose focus.

To help limit distractions, try to find a quiet place to exercise. “No music, podcast, audiobook or television,” says John Turnbull of Immortal Palm Internal Martial Arts. “Avoid those distractions that take your mind off your body and training. Whether you find a quiet room or in nature.”

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