There’s no doubt that shorter days and colder temps put a serious downer on our motivation to move during the winter months. But new research has discovered a surprising way to increase the amount of exercise we do throughout the chilly season – mindfulness.
A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise tasked participants with undertaking different intervention programs to encourage exercise during autumn – mindfulness-based stress reduction or aerobic training.
Participants in the mindfulness program spent two and a half hours a week in a class learning how to reduce stress through meditation, self-awareness and being present in the moment. They practiced mindful stretching and movement as well as breathing exercises to incorporate into their daily activities. People in the training group dedicated two and half hours to learning various exercise techniques, discussing strategies to change behaviour and walking or jogging.
After eight weeks they measured changes in the participants’ exercise, general physical activity and sedentary time in comparison to a control group who had no intervention.
Unsurprisingly, they found that those put through an aerobic training program demonstrated an increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. What did shock the researchers was that participants using the mindfulness program also showed increases in physical activity
“Structured exercise training is something as a field we have used for decades to improve physical activity and physical health,” lead author Jacob Meyer, an ISU assistant professor of kinesiology, said. “To see a similar effect on physical activity from an intervention that focuses on the way someone thinks or perceives the world, was completely unexpected.”
The researchers suggest that combining mindfulness and movement could help increase physical activity participation.
This isn't the first study to show that getting some zen can help your health – a recent paper published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that regular meditation and mindful eating strategies contribute to long-term weight loss.