Proper nutrition and aerobic endurance are typically equated with the achievement of optimal health, often at the expense of other factors that can promote well-being. We sometimes overlook that the body is made up of systems that are interdependent. To improve and maintain your quality of life, and to promote independence as you age, the body needs to be treated as a unified whole. Mental, emotional, and spiritual health are just as important, as are adequate levels of flexibility, balance, stability, and muscular coordination. The discipline of mind/body exercise seeks to attain this union of systems. Its foundation is to promote the alignment of mind, body and spirit.
There are many different disciplines of mind/body exercise. However, most center on increasing self-awareness while performing a physical activity. Mind/body exercise incorporates precise, controlled body movements while directing your attention inward. The internal focus is on your breathing and body position in space (kinesthetic or proprioceptive awareness). Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi are examples of mind/body exercise. These disciplines have been around for hundreds (Tai Chi) and thousands (Yoga) of years and have numerous variations. Pilates is the "newest" form of the three examples, originating in the early- to mid- 1900's.
The many variations and degrees of difficulty of these methods make mind/body exercise a versatile choice for individuals of all age groups and functional levels. The multiple health benefits obtained from mind/body exercise have contributed to its continued popularity into modern times.
Health Benefits of Mind/Body Exercise
- Stress management/decreased anxiety
- Increased sense of well-being
- Improved balance/stability
- Increased flexibility/range of motion
- Improved motor coordination
- Increased muscular strength
- Improved body posture
- Enhanced quality of sleep
- Pain management (e.g. low-back pain)
- Decreased risk of falls in older adults
- Reduced risk of bone fractures in older adults
- Facilitates rehabilitation from injury (e.g. Pilates for dancers)
Mind/body exercise proves to be a good compliment to a traditional exercise program (e.g. walking). It can be easily incorporated into your warm-up or cool-down session. Mind/body exercise can also serve as a substitute or alternative form of exercise one or two days a week. Classes can be found through fitness centers, community parks and recreation facilities, YMCA's, and senior centers.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Fitness for Dummies, 3rd Edition; Schlosberg, S., Neporent, L.
ACSM Fit Society Page Fall 2008; "Mind/Body Exercise: What is it?", pp. 1-2. Schroeder, J.
ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, September/October 2005, Vol. 9/Issue 5, "Aligning Mind and Body: Exploring the Disciplines of Mindful Exercise", pp. 7-13. La Forge, R.
Labels: mind/body exercise, Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga