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Exercise – The mind makes a big difference

The secret to becoming fitter? It’s all in the mind.

When it comes to fitness, your state of mind is now considered as important as training your body. It has been proven many times that a strong, trained mind makes it a lot easier to get fitter, healthier, achieve your goals and stick to them. The mind can even help you burn more fat!

A recent study carried out by a Harvard Psychologist Dr Ellen Langer into self-awareness and exercise revealed the impact of the mind. She discovered that when participants increased their levels of awareness during their exercise routines, on average they:

  • Lost two pounds in weight
  • Reduced body fat content
  • Reduced systolic blood pressure by ten points
  • Increased levels of enjoyment

Awareness was the only thing changed in the participants exercise regimes to achieve these results. There was no more or less exercise involved and the intensity stayed the same throughout the experiment.

How to raise motivation

The results of the study are amazing but in order to achieve these for yourself you will need an exercise plan that you will stick to.

Whatever you decide to choose, to give your plan the best chance of lasting, you must start with the mind. Creating and sticking with a workout routine unfortunately is not easy. It takes a lot of commitment, patience, motivation and of course time. Excuses such as being too tired, too busy or simply not wanting to go for yet another run in the rain, soon start creeping into your untrained mind and more often than not you will find yourself comfort eating in front of the tv rather than exercising.

However when the mind is strong and focused you can stop obstacles like bad weather or fatigue from blocking your goals. The mind defines your relationship with your body which is why mindfulness is vital in exercise.

Medical Director of Therapeutic Neuroscience at Yale University Medical School, Professor Judson Brewer, explains: “When we go to put our on shoes for a run, the mind may say, “It’s cold, it’s raining, this is going to suck, and I can’t do it.”

Mind training will help you to recognise that these are just thoughts floating around in your head and you soon learn to ignore them.

“Learning to take these thoughts with a pinch of salt means that we can be less involved in thinking, and instead, get on with what we need to do.” Professor Brewer added.

Top tips for training your mind

To get mind-fit you need to create a mental balance of ‘committed focus’ and ‘relaxed ease’. But how exactly will you achieve this? Most sports scientists say it stems from self-awareness.

Athletes require long and intense gym training sessions to strengthen their muscles and increase the fitness levels, however their mind requires short periods of intensive training – using meditation instead of weights. Meditation helps to keep them in the present moment and use that clarity to concentrate on performing to their full potential.

Ready to give it a shot? Try these tips:

1. Decide what you want to achieve from your exercise plan. Once this is clear it will be much easier to stick to it.

2. Be realistic. Don’t set yourself very high goals as this will lead to disappointment. Start with small steps and increase your goals over time.

3. Make a habit of it. If you exercise at the same time and same place every day it will eventually become part of your everyday routine.

4. Put your imagination to work. Mentally rehearse your exercise regime as this is proven to give better results and to boost your confidence. Professional athletes do this regularly.

5. Concentrate your thoughts on your body when exercising and enjoy a more productive workout.

6. Enjoy it! Exercise can be really fun so don’t push yourself too hard as this can make it seem like a chore.

7. Congratulate yourself after completing every workout. This will raise your self esteem and make the mind calmer.

8. Make little changes to your everyday life. Such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking to places instead of driving.

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