When scrolling through the workouts Aaptiv offers, you may be surprised to see meditation as a category. But, research indicates meditation can have a profound impact on your overall mental health, particularly when paired with exercise. So whatever your fitness preference—strength training, ab workouts, cardio, yoga—here’s how meditation and exercise work together to benefit your workouts.
Meditation prepares your mind and your body for exercise.
More than anything, meditation focuses your attention and energy. Aaptiv trainer Sonja Rzepski suggests meditation can help you get the most out of your workout, so you’re less likely to get bored or experience an injury. It also allows you to stay motivated for exercise and inspires you to be as effective as possible with each workout.
“Most folks have a tendency to associate meditation with sitting in lotus pose on a mountain overlooking a valley. But a meditative approach to all forms of exercising—personal training to group fitness to extreme sports—is an excellent way to prepare your mind as well as your body,” says Aaptiv trainer Ceasar Barajas.
It only takes a couple breaths to reap the rewards of meditation.
As a mind and body practice, meditation shows promise in terms of improving overall health and well-being. Evidence suggests it can lower blood pressure and reduce conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Rzepski adds that it can help the body align itself, as well benefit one’s immune system, promote good sleep, gain perspective, and cultivate a positive mindset.
“The mere physical act of placing a hand over your heart activates your parasympathetic nervous system. It calms and decompresses you. In addition, the deep conscious breaths you’re taking actively lower your blood pressure and oxygenates your bloodstream,” says Barajas. “Then, boom! You’ve not only finished your workout, but took your body past the initial point of where you thought you could.”
Barajas says most people also feel a heightened sense of peace, calmness, happiness, and contentment after meditating.
Meditation can be a “cool down” for the brain post-workout, or a way to be present for an upcoming workout.
According to Rzepski, when you meditate matters less than the fact that you did it. Barajas explained why he suggests meditating before exercise or after exercise.
“Take a few moments to gather your thoughts with a couple deep, conscious breaths. Situate yourself where you are instead of thinking about what you did earlier. Focus on being present for the next 30-75 minutes of your workout. All of this will help you kick ass, so yes, I suggest meditating before exercise,” says Barajas. “In turn, the same goes for after you work out. It’s like a cool down for the brain. You’ve come off physically taxing your body, so taking a moment to acknowledge that work is important. Fill up with gratitude for the fact that you showed up regardless of how well you think you did or didn’t do!”
You can do meditation standing, sitting, or lying down.
Though some schools of thought maintain strong opinions on bodily position during meditation, the truth is you can do it while sitting, standing, lying down, or walking. Sitting is often dubbed the best position to meditate. It keeps the body and mind attentive versus the relaxation that occurs when you lay down. However, you should always choose a comfortable position based on your own needs.
“Meditation can be achieved while walking, driving, washing the dishes—you get the picture,” explains Barajas. “For example, let’s say you’re in the middle of a crazy class or session, and you think you don’t have it in you to continue. You’re exhausted and you’re gasping for air. Pausing for a brief moment, putting your hand over your heart and taking 2-5 deep, conscious breaths will reset and rejuvenate you.”
“Sitting is good for most meditation,” says Rzepski. “Except Yoga Nidra meditation which is traditionally done lying down.”
Guided meditation makes it easier to get started.
It may seem strange to use a digital device to turn inward. But, using a guided meditation class like those offered in Aaptiv can encourage the prioritization of mental health as much as physical health.
“Guided meditations take the legwork out of having to sit in stillness alone, which is something many people have difficulty doing,” Barajas reveals. “Our options and personal trainers at Aaptiv are the best in the business. Our guidance into meditation is smooth and fluid. We also offer a variety of types of meditation which many people new to the game don’t realize exist.”
Customize meditation for what you need.
Many people want to know exactly how many minutes are best when it comes to meditation. But, there’s no right answer. If you’re brand new to meditation, Rzepski says to aim for 5-10 minutes to start, but you can also begin with just a few breaths and build up to longer sessions.
“It’s not about the amount of time you meditate. It’s about the act of slowing down enough to acknowledge that you are,” notes Barajas. “One day, your meditation might be ten conscious breaths, and that’s it. Or five deep breaths before you walk into school or a meeting. Or maybe a 30-minute guided class. The length will vary, but the goal is to create a habit where you allot enough time to be fully present.”
“Being healthy is about finding balance, joy, and gratitude in our lives, as much as it is about meeting a fitness goal,” claims Rzepski. “Be patient. Try meditation a few times to discover which style is best for you.”