Exercise and meditation: Can workouts and mindfulness coexist?
Learn all about the relationship between meditation and exercise, how to add mindfulness to your workouts, and the benefits of exercising with intention.
May 4, 2021

Mindfulness, meditation and exercise are all parts of a healthy happy life. Each practice brings its own set of benefits to any daily routine.

But are they the same? What’s the difference between exercise and meditation? And how can you be more mindful during your workout routine?

In this quick exercise and meditation guide you’ll learn how to be mindful with your movements and how to add meditation to your exercise practice.

What is meditation?

The NCCIH defines meditation as:

“A mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being.”

With this definition in mind, let’s explore how meditation, and its effects, can coexist with your own workout practice.

Movement as meditation

When you think of calmness and physical relaxation, you’re probably not picturing a high intensity workout or vigorous exercise…

But certain types of exercise can be considered meditation. The NCCIH also states that most meditation has “four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).”

Getting your daily steps in or doing your morning stretches can both fit this helpful definition of meditation.

But what about higher impact daily workout routines that includes movements like squats or push-ups? Can they be meditation too?

Can exercise be meditation?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

While most meditation practices focus on quiet locations, few distractions, and sitting or lying down, it doesn’t mean that you can’t bring some mindfulness to your exercise practice.
A common goal of meditation is overall mindfulness—a state we often struggle to find during our busy days. So a better question to ask might be: “Can exercise be mindful?” The answer is yes.

6 ways to add mindfulness to your exercise routine

Mindfulness and its benefits can be achieved with all types of exercise and in many different ways.

Here’s 6 simple ways to add some mindfulness into your exercise practice:

Remove distractions

Let distractions come and go naturally to add some mindfulness to your exercise.

If your mind starts to drift to stressful or distracting thoughts like paying bills, forgetting to buy juice, or that the kitchen needs sweeping, acknowledge those thoughts but let them drift gently past as you settle further into your workout.

This will allow you to remain focused and attached to the connection between your mind, your body and your movements.

Focus on breathing and rhythm

Find the rhythm and nurturing qualities of your breath to stay centered and focussed as you work out.

Staying attached to your breath will help you avoid distraction and remain present with your workout, whether it’s low impact or higher intensity.

Experiment with the setting of your workouts

Where you exercise is just as important as what exercise you’re doing.

If you’re working out indoors, try to create a neutral space that’s free of distractions and clutter.

If you’re able, working out in nature helps to add a mindful layer to workouts as well and can help you connect to nature that’s often lost in our busy lives.

Set an intention for your exercise practice

Working out intentionally will help you stay focussed on why you’re working out.

Take some time weekly, daily, and before each workout to set an intention so you can keep it close while you’re working out. It will help you stay present and motivated to move more.

Keep your mind and body connected

Keeping the mind and body connection strong during your workouts with an ongoing body scan is essential for adding some mindfulness to your routine.

Stay in tune to feelings, sensations and developments in your body.

Keying into how your body is encountering and reacting to your movement breaks will help you stay connected to your present moment.

Give gratitude

Thank yourself. Completing your exercise practice and working towards your goals and intentions deserves ecstatic gratitude.

Giving thanks to yourself helps you re-contextualize how you think about your exercise practice and strengthens your relationship to your own progress.

This can lead to increased drive to continue and a better overall relationship to your routine. Say thank you, you deserve it.

How to blend your exercise and meditation practices

While not all exercise can be considered meditation by definition, it’s clear that mindfulness and exercise can coexist!

Meditation and exercise can also sit side by side...

Adding meditative activities like walking, yoga, guided meditation or mindfulness activities before or after workouts is a great way to take advantage of that cozy afterglow exercise and meditation can create.

Additionally, the space you workout in is usually a great place to take a few minutes of meditation during your day, so don’t hesitate to add some to your daily routine.

Meditation, mindfulness and exercise

Now that you know the similarities and differences between exercise and meditation, and some helpful way to make your workouts more mindful, add some to your next workout and enjoy the feeling of more centered and connected workouts.

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