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Mindful movement: How to incorporate more joyful exercise in your life

In the busyness of life, finding time to prioritize movement and self-care can be a challenge. And when we do find the time, hitting the gym or going for a run often feels like the last thing we want to do. Mindful movement, however, can help you reap all the benefits of exercise—both physical and mental—in a more joyful way that feels right for your body and your life.

Try these tips and tricks to bring more mindful movement to your day.

So, what exactly is mindful movement?

Mindful movement is paying attention to your body’s natural cues while engaging in movement. It’s a kind of exercise that emphasizes individualized activity patterns based on your mood, health and feelings.

Many studies have suggested that mindful movement as an intervention can improve conditions such as anxiety and depression. Movement and activity have also been found to improve cognitive function in older adults.

When asked in a study, older adults claimed mindfulness exercises attribute to their increased awareness and self-reflection. This brought about a more self-accepting attitude and served to improve their self-care habits.

Mindfulness movements are a practical way for you to take care of yourself and be more aware of the world around them. This is vital in today’s society, as we often can be focused on the world in our hands—on our phones—and lose sight of what’s important in our lives.

Moving your body should never be a chore

Moving your body can often feel like something on a checklist, but it can also be used as an outlet to channel stress, decompress or help you feel your best.

In order to engage in mindful movement, it’s important to make sure you’re motivated by the right reasons to exercise. People prioritizing their physical appearance often don’t end up enjoying or sticking with their routine. Ask yourself, what’s motivating you to start moving your body more?

Depending on what your body agrees with and can tolerate, exercises such as running, biking, swimming and playing sports are all excellent ways to stay active. But these aren’t the only forms of physical activity linked to mindful movement. Some less-conventional forms of mindful movement include but are not limited to:

  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Kayaking or paddle boarding
  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Playing frisbee
  • Gymnastics
  • Joining a recreational league

In a study of adults with Type 2 diabetes, practicing yoga twice a week was found to reduce HbA1c, a blood test measuring average blood sugar levels over 3 months, as well as improve diabetes self-care, quality of life and emotional distress. These findings can be attributed to their reported increase in mindfulness with the implementation of yoga in their week.

The health perks of getting outside

Practicing mindful movements can also be taken outside! Surrounding yourself with nature and fresh air while hiking can be a great outlet that promotes mindfulness movement. Time spent in nature has been linked to restoring mental and emotional health and providing physical health benefits, including decreased stress levels and blood pressure.

Whether it’s hiking or a walk outside in your neighborhood, finding ways to have mindful movements outside provides a plethora of benefits.

No need to break the bank with a gym membership

Joyful movement can take place just about anywhere, even in your own home. If you need help finding a rhythm to exercise at home, YouTube offers a variety of free workout videos ranging from quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts to hour-long yoga classes. Taking a walk around your neighborhood or a stroll around a local park is another great way to enjoy movement close to home.

Simple and creative ways to move every day

Another misconception of traditional exercise is that you have to specifically set aside time or only wear clothes designed for working out. There are no rules! Moving your body does not have to be an entire routine and you don’t even need to break a sweat if that’s not what your body needs.

So, how can you add movement to your day? Here are some simple and creative ideas for how to move your body:

  • Taking the stairs
  • Riding your bike to work or the store
  • Walking while you talk on the phone
  • Listening to audiobooks and podcasts while exercising
  • Investing in a standing desk or under-desk treadmill
  • Going to the grocery store instead of choosing delivery
  • Completing housework like cooking, washing your car, organizing and cleaning

Make sure you take care of yourself and listen to your body. Mindful movement is an excellent way to reconnect with yourself and get your body moving. Have fun, get your move on, and enjoy exploring the different modes of mindful movement!

This article was contributed by dietetic interns Maison Mote and Kendall Lyons.

Mindful movement: How to incorporate more joyful exercise in your life