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Is Exercise a Form of Meditation? What the Science Says

There are many similarities between meditation and experiencing the flow state during exercise, but can exercise be considered a form of meditation?

Written by Sarah Hill
November 19th, 2022

Meditation elicits states of inner peace and tranquility where the inner voice inside your mind all but fades away. The similarity between meditative states and flow during exercise often has people wondering, “Is exercise meditation?” 


This blog post will explore the similarities between exercise and meditation and discuss how both benefit the physical and mental aspects of our well-being.


The Benefits of Physical Exercise


To examine the similarities between meditation and exercise, we should first identify the benefits of each. 


Exercise is any physical activity that elevates a person’s heart rate and gets one moving and sweating. It boasts numerous benefits for physical health, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.


How Does Exercise Improve Your Mental Health?


Exercise improves a person’s mood, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts one’s self-esteem, and improves sleep. 


If you’re a regular Healium reader those might sound familiar, as every one of those positive changes are ones we champion as reasons for practicing consistent meditation as well. 


Exercising releases chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins interact with the brain’s receptors and help reduce pain perception. Endorphins also make people feel good.


In addition to endorphins, exercise also releases other brain chemicals that can improve people’s moods, including dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers in the brain, while serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, and sleep.


Exercise has also been shown to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that helps to promote the growth of new nerve cells and the development of new neural pathways in the brain, which can improve memory and make learning easier.


The Benefits of Meditation


Meditation is the practice of turning one’s attention inward and focusing on the present moment, and meditation also boasts many of the same benefits as physical exercise. Those who meditate regularly see improved levels of hormones including melatonin, dopamine and prolactin. Additionally, meditation has proven to be effective at limiting cortisol levels in your body, the primary hormone associated with stress. 


How Does Meditation Improve Your Mental Health?


There are many types of meditation, and each one can help to improve your mental health in different ways. Some types of meditation focus on breathing, while others focus on a mantra or a certain word or phrase that one repeats. There are also guided meditations, where someone else leads a person through the practice.


Meditation improves a person’s mental fitness by reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and increasing overall well-being. It can also help to improve one’s concentration and focus and reduce rumination and has even been shown to improve memory and increase gray matter in the brain.


Can Exercise Be Considered a Form of Meditation?


Oftentimes when people are exercising they enter the flow state — also known as “the zone.” This is when time seems to stand still and people become one with what they’re doing. When this phenomenon occurs, it is remarkably similar to (and could be considered) a form of meditation. 


In other words exercise turns into meditation when people are fully present and focused in the moment.


For example, a runner focuses on each footfall, the rhythm of their breath, and the feeling of their heart pumping. They become one with the running and are in the flow state. 


When a person exercises and pays attention to their bodies’ movements at the same time, they create a strong mind-body connection. Research shows  people who intentionally focus on their exercise routines end up enjoying them more and see greater improvements in their physical fitness. 


This mind-body connection allows people to be more aware of their form, which can help them prevent injuries. It also allows them to focus on the muscles they’re targeting so that they can get the most out of their workout. Lastly, it enables them to connect with their bodies in a way that can be calming and therapeutic.

Similarities Between Meditation and Exercise


So, is exercise meditation?


Meditation and exercise have a lot in common despite their perceived differences. Both require people to be fully present and in the moment, and both improve one’s ability to focus. In fact, many people find that they reach a flow state more easily when they’re doing some form of physical activity.


So, what does science say? According to research, there are plenty of similarities between meditation and exercise. For example, both meditation and exercise have been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and increase cognitive function. In addition, both can help improve one’s sense of well-being and overall health.


Therefore, people will benefit from mixing up their routine and adding some exercise into their meditation practices.


After all, exercise can be a form of meditation in and of itself. To combat stress, a person might engage in an exercise session of running or jogging while meditating on their breath. People will find that it’s the perfect way to clear their minds and center themselves. This will enhance their love for exercising even more.

About the Author

Sarah Hill is the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically-powered VR/AR immersive media channel controlled by the user's brainwaves and heart rate via consumer wearables.

Learn more about her here.

Written by Sarah Hill
November 19th, 2022
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