A woman being active (Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash)

BATH, United Kingdom — If you still haven’t settled on a New Year’s resolution, new research suggests you may want to consider adopting two instead of just one. Scientists at the University of Bath say that while exercise and mindfulness make fantastic, healthy habits all on their own, combining the two activities can lead to an even greater boost in overall well-being and mental health.

Study authors explain any life changes that included a combination of both physical activity and mindfulness were the most effective at lifting mood and improving both health and well-being.

Exercise and mindfulness, of course, both feature their own distinct, established psychological benefits. Now, though, this latest work offers a fresh perspective on their combined effect through a review of existing research studies. This report is one of the first ever to detail how the individual positive effects of each increase when someone combines the two.

“Starting 2024 with a resolution to exercise more can have really positive physical and mental health benefits. But we know that starting out can be tough and that it can also be hard to stick with it over time,” says Masha Remskar from Bath’s Department of Health in a university release. “Mindfulness is an approach that can help us ‘train up’ the psychological strengths we need to exercise and be more in tune with our bodies, as well as make exercising more interesting and help us recognize its benefits.”

“This may be because becoming more mindful prompts us to think differently about our lifestyle, makes us more accepting and less judgmental of our own shortcomings, which can help to build healthy habits. There is a huge potential to use mindfulness to unlock the positive benefits exercise can bring.”

Woman at the gym laughing after finishing a strenuous boxing exercise
Woman laughing at the gym (Photo by Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images)

The research indicates that mindfulness — a variety of meditation that focuses on the present moment free of any interpretations, judgments, or thoughts — can also help “unlock” exercise by helping motivate people to get started in the first place. For example, this technique can help overcome minor pain, discomfort, or feelings of failure when working out becomes difficult.

An analysis of the existing research found mindfulness to be a highly effective method of lowering one’s worries, stress, and anxiety, as well as serving as a catalyst for healthier, happier lives. Researchers saw these mental and physical health benefits tied to mindfulness in people with and without health issues.

This project was put together by psychologist Masha Remskar, an expert in behavior change, mindfulness and exercise based at the University of Bath, in collaboration with the Medito Foundation, a mindfulness non-profit on a mission to build a more mindful world. Medito has developed a free mindfulness meditation app – an alternative to paid-for services like Headspace and Calm. Now, the Medito Foundation hopes their collaboration with the University of Bath will help encourage more people to try both mindfulness and more exercise.

Based on this new report, the research team have already developed and released the first of two mindfulness audio courses intended to help people exercise more. Later this year, they plan to release the second guide, which will focus on sustaining exercise habits.

“Mindfulness mobile apps are a great way to boost our mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, all too often companies put up paywalls, making the benefits of mindfulness inaccessible to some,” adds Steven Yorke, co-founder at Medito.

“This collaboration with the University of Bath has been a great way to expand the range of mindfulness meditations we can offer, and it feels great to be at the cutting edge of mindfulness science while we do this.”

The study is published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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