Mindful movement changed the fitness game for me. I spent years exercising without any sense of what my body needed or how it actually felt. Coincidentally, I could also never stay consistent with any program or routine.
I’d be invested and excited for a few months and then life would get busy and all of a sudden, lifting weights or going to the gym felt like the last thing I wanted to do. So I’d stop and then eventually, start again at some point in the distant future.
You may be familiar with this off-and-on relationship with your fitness routine. One of the things that made it possible for me to stay consistent once and for all was mindful movement.
Pilates brought this style of exercise to my attention and in the last 10 years, it’s created a powerful shift, not just in my fitness routine but in my life as well.
If you struggle with stopping and starting your fitness routine but want to be consistent enough to experience both the mental and physical benefits, this may be the missing piece. Mindful movement reminds us that exercise is about so much more than simply showing up. It’s about slowing down, being in your body, and taking even just 10 minutes for you to focus on yourself.
Let’s talk about what mindful movement is and how it can help your fitness routine stick once and for all.
What Is Mindful Movement?
Do you pay attention to the sensation of your muscles contracting as you lift weights?
Are you able to breathe slowly and intentionally as you move your body through your workout?
How often do you listen to the needs of your body when choosing your workout each day?
All of these ways of thinking about and approaching exercise are part of mindful movement. This is the integration of mental awareness and physical exertion. It helps you focus on what your body is doing—and how it feels—from one exercise to the next.
This style of movement helped me stick with my workout routine once and for all. I started choosing exercises that my body was craving rather than forcing something I didn’t want. I also started noticing the mental benefits of consistent mindful movement, like less stress and better sleep.
All of this showed me that simply showing up to my workouts wasn’t enough. To stick with it, I needed to slow down, tune into my body, and take note of how each workout was impacting my life, not just during but after.
How to Incorporate Mindful Movement
A few of the most common examples of mindful movement include yoga, tai chi, and, of course, Pilates. This is the basis for our workouts here at Lindywell, but all types of movement can be done with a mindful approach using these basic principles:
- Slow down and breathe: Slow down each movement and use your breath to connect with your body as you do it. For example, breathe out as you roll your body down to touch your toes, breathe in at the bottom, and breathe out as you roll back up.
- Focus on what your body needs: Some days you may want to lift heavy weights but other days you may want to stretch gently. This is especially true for women who have a monthly cycle. Choose the movement that your body is craving each day rather than forcing something that doesn’t feel good.
- Set an intention: Your workout does so much more than build muscle. It can help you tap into your creativity, let go of anxiety, or cultivate energy for your day. What do you want to get out of your workout? Set that intention and keep it front of mind as you go through the movements so it becomes not only about the movement itself but how you feel as a result.
How Mindful Movement Creates Consistency
If your idea of a workout is to rush through a series of intense exercises as quickly as possible, then mindful movement may be far outside your comfort zone. That’s okay, I’ve been there! But, trust me, if you’re willing to give it a try, this will change the way you experience movement.
It may also be the missing piece to creating more consistency in your workout routine. On that note, here are eight science-backed reasons mindful movement will make your fitness routine (finally!) stick.
1. Stress Management
The combination of being mindful while also moving your body is impactful, according to researchers at Penn State University. This state of being can help relieve stress, anxiety, or depression because mindfulness trains you to take deep breaths and concentrate on physical sensations, rather than what’s happening in your mind.
Both of these actions reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, creating a relaxing effect on the body—even when it’s in motion.
When do you most often bail on your workouts? When you have a stressful day. Yet that’s when you need it most. Consistent mindful movement with Pilates is one of the main ways I show up as the best version of myself for my kids, my husband, and my business because it helps me manage and reduce my stress.
Without it, I would definitely struggle more to juggle everything that life throws my way so I always prioritize it.
2. Fewer Injuries
When you slow down to focus on the correct form, cadence, and technique of an exercise, you’re less likely to injure yourself. This is important to consider because, when you injure yourself, you’re more likely to get out of your workout rhythm to take time for rest and healing.
Slow down with mindful movement to avoid injury in the first place. This way you have one less reason to get out of your fitness routine. Let’s be honest, we all have enough reasons already, right?!
3. Better Sleep
Mindful movement can boost sleep quality and alleviate insomnia by regulating your nervous system. A regulated nervous system can stimulate the natural sleep-wake cycle, in addition to helping you manage inflammation, increase oxygenation, and lower your resting heart rate, all of which promote better sleep. Lindywell member, Kristen, experienced this after starting Pilates:
“I have also noticed that I am getting more deep sleep than I was before starting Pilates, and there is a noticeable increase in my core strength, which is definitely encouraging and motivating.”
Take note of your sleep patterns and habits. When you slow down your workout, do you notice you sleep better at night? This benefit might just be enough to help you stick with your routine because we all feel so much better when we get quality sleep!
4. Mood Regulation
Physical activity releases mood-lifting hormones (cue that post-workout glow) like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. When you integrate mindfulness into the exercise routine, those benefits are amplified.
That’s because mindfulness training improves emotional regulation, self-esteem resilience, and satisfaction in life. Being mindful during workouts can strengthen your mental health as a whole. This makes your fitness routine so much more impactful in every area of your life, giving you just another reason to stick with it consistently.
5. Athletic Endurance
Stamina is important not just in your workout, but in life. If you want to go hiking with friends or run around your yard with a pup or grandkids, you need stamina. According to the Neural Plasticity Journal mindfulness optimizes aerobic endurance (stamina). In other words, you can enjoy your favorite physical activities for longer periods of time when you stick with a mindful movement practice. Yes, please!
6. Improved Energy Levels
Diaphragm-based breathwork (deep, slow breathing) is an essential part of mindful movement that brings big benefits. It’s been found to boost respiratory function, which helps circulate more oxygen to the brain and body and, in turn, can boost your energy levels.
Research from the Health Promotion Perspectives Journal also found that combining exercise with meditation curbs fatigue. This means you feel both alert and invigorated, which is another great reason to stick with it. I mean, does anyone else always want more energy, or is that just me?
Here’s how Lindywell member, Lori, experienced this boost of energy after she joined:
“I joined Lindywell in 2017 and I was hooked. I was able to be more consistent with exercise because of the shorter workouts at any time of day. I quickly built strength and tone and more energy and less stress!”
Experience this yourself with Lindywell’s guided breathwork! Join our 14-day free trial to get access to all the breathwork sessions plus 275+ workouts!
7. Better Concentration
Mindful movement requires a different level of concentration than simply doing a workout. The benefit of tuning into each muscle contraction and physical sensation is that you’re grounded in the present. Consistently doing this enhances your brain function.
In fact, a new study from Frontiers in Psychology found that mindfulness-based exercises strengthen the neural networks that increase focus, memory attention span, informational processing, and other key executive functions. Stick with your mindful movement routine and you may notice you focus better in every other area of life!
8. More Enjoyable Workouts
When you’re connected to the sensory experience of a workout, it’s easier to intuit how your body feels and what it might need. This makes the fitness program itself more enjoyable which promotes well-being and makes it easier to turn it into a habit.
It makes sense when you think about it: why would you keep doing something that doesn’t feel good or that you don’t enjoy? Choosing workouts that you do enjoy—the format of which may change from day to day—makes you want to do it, rather than feeling like you need to force it.
Tap into Mindful Movement with Lindywell
Mindful movement might just be the missing piece in creating a fitness routine that sticks. You can bring mindfulness into any movement format, and at Lindywell, we help you do that through Pilates. With more than 275 workouts ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, plus breathwork sessions, anti-inflammatory recipes, and more, you’ll stress less, feel amazing, and strengthen your mind-body connection. Start your 14-day free trial to access your workouts instantly!