Mindful Exercise: What It Is and How To Incorporate It

Every day is a chance to be better than yesterday – especially in the gym. After all if you’re not making progress each and every single day then what’s the point? Many of us get caught up in this type of self-talk but it’s not always what’s best for us. Practicing mindful exercise greatly improves your ability to be consistent with your new routine, which is the key to a lifestyle of wellness. 

What is Mindful Exercise?

Mindful exercise is an approach to fitness and health that focuses on being in the present. It involves focusing more on breathing, proper form and enjoying your workouts. Doing these things doesn’t mean you won’t make progress, it simply means you’ll enjoy the process more and your body will feel better.

Breathing Techniques for Mindful Exercise 

Proper breathing goes hand-in-hand with good form. Establishing a consistent breath that comes from the diaphragm or belly fills the lungs, giving you better recovery and performance during workouts. While many people will power through a movement with full force and vigor, the breath is often lost in the mix. Try swimming laps underwater where you can’t breathe, you won’t get very far. The same is true in the gym when you don’t focus on inhaling and exhaling in rhythm with the movement. Generally speaking, you should inhale as you lower the weight and exhale as you lift the weight. For example, on a dumbbell press you would inhale as you lower the weights to your body and exhale as you press them away. 

Breathing is one major component which ties directly into your actual movement in an exercise. Think back to your last workout. How much did you focus on how your body, joints and muscles were moving versus just moving the weight? If you’re thinking for more than two seconds about your answer, you likely have an opportunity to add more mindfulness to your form. Focusing on this increases your ability to activate the correct muscles so you get more benefit from each and every rep. 

Consider this, if you were to mow a lawn without paying attention to where you’re going you’re going to have lots of grass that’s sticking up at the end. So then you have to go back around and cut those blades of grass which takes more time, or you leave them and defeat the purpose of mowing the lawn in the first place. With exercise, when you truly focus on the movement it’s not only safer, it’s more effective. Rather than doing 4-5 exercises you could get the same benefit and feeling from doing 2-3 exercises mindfully. 

Benefits of Mindful Exercising 

Not only does mindful exercising save time, but it also greatly reduces your chance of injury or strain. Almost all gym-related injuries come from improper form on a movement. Our certified YouCoaches are trained in teaching you how to perform exercises mindfully and correctly. If you ever have a question or want to be more mindful with your movement be sure to ask one of our YouCoaches for guidance.

One of the most underrated aspects of exercise is enjoyment. As we said earlier, consistency is one of the biggest factors when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. The more you enjoy something, the more often you’re likely to do it. When you find a great series on Netflix you want to keep watching it until it’s over, on the other hand when you watch one or two episodes that are uninspiring you won’t keep watching. Many people fall into this trap with exercise. 

The great part of exercise is there is as much variety in how you can do it as there are shows on Netflix. The options are limitless and when done mindfully, all can create progress. As long as you get a mixture of resistance training, cardio and recovery, it really doesn’t matter how you get them. So often though we see someone in the gym who looks or moves the way we want and so we copy what they do. Or we see a workout on TV, or hear of the latest and greatest diet from a coworker and assume that’s the only way to get to a goal. 

Whether you use a dumbbell, treadmill or take a YouGX class, it doesn’t matter. As long as the program is well-balanced, you’re bound to see progress. The only time you won’t see any results is if you do nothing, which happens when you stop enjoying exercise. Experiment and find the way you like to exercise so you view your workouts as a fun challenge rather than a chore.

There are many ways to be more mindful with exercise. Breathing, proper form, and finding the type of exercise you enjoy most all put you well on your way. The more mindful you are about your movement the better results you’ll get and the more consistent you’ll be in achieving your goals. Remember that being mindful isn’t a solo task. One of the best ways to be more mindful is to reach out and ask for help, at Youfit we’re here for you and want you to succeed in reaching your goals. 

Raphael Konforti

Raphael Konforti is the National Head of Fitness Education for Youfit Health Clubs, where he oversees the development and continuing education of more than 1,000 trainers at 100-plus locations. He’s also an author for PTA Global, a personal training certification program specializing in teaching behavior change. He has worked in the fitness industry since 2010, training clients, developing a fitness concept for Club Med, and writing for several fitness websites and publications.