Here’s how you may be exercising wrong
Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
This is often the mantra of people with busy schedules. The pace of life speeds up, leaving little time to relax. Even their workout routines are fast and aggressive, which sometimes can do more harm than good.
But there’s a trend that’s steering people in the opposite direction, encouraging them to slow down while working out. Gloria Nash, a yoga instructor at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Health & Fitness Center in Barrington, Ill., says a gentler form of exercise can benefit both the body and mind. We asked her about the physical and mental advantages of the slow fitness movement.
Can you explain the art of moving more slowly?
Interestingly enough, I would say that slowing down, in and of itself, is actually a type of action because of effort and focus. When we consciously choose to move slowly, it requires practice and dedication. Our lives often become so fast paced, moving from one thought or action to the next. The art of slowing down is about recognizing how to pause, enjoy the moment and connect with your breath to notice more about yourself and your surroundings.
What are some of the negatives of high-intensity workouts?
When you are moving so fast and so intensely, it can be challenging to check in with your body to recognize when you’ve had enough. Our bodies send us signals, letting us know when we need to pause or readjust. If we push ourselves past that point because of the fast pace, we can accidently strain or injure ourselves either immediately or over time.
Certainly, pushing your own physical limits can be an incredibly positive thing, and you can bring mindfulness into play in any aspect of your life, once it is easy to tap into. Again, it’s really about the pause, listening to yourself and trusting yourself to make good choices. We are better equipped to make those choices when we have a practice of slowing down.
What are the physical benefits of slowing down while working out?
One of the most noticeable benefits would be simply becoming more aware of yourself and your body. When we slow down, we can learn to release some of the tension that gets built up. When we release tension, we allow for our bodies to ease up on the production of cortisone, a stress hormone. This also offers an opportunity for our bodies to start producing more serotonin, the happy hormone. Point blank: Reduce stress and increase happiness to achieve better overall health.
Are there any mental health benefits?
Our mental health is very intricately tied to our physical health. More than 90 percent of our serotonin production is in our gut. Want a happy mind? Learn how to relax the diaphragm. Our breath should be able to flow all the way down to the lowest part of the diaphragm, located just about where our stomach sits.
The easiest way to recognize your breath is to lay on your back with the knees bent. Placing one hand on your lower belly, begin to notice your breath.
As you inhale, the air should fill the chest, and then move all the way down to the lowest part of the stomach. As you exhale, the breath will move out of the chest, and you have to press the breath out of your belly to completely release.
The mental and physical side effects will be immediate after doing several rounds of diaphragmic breath work. The studies on overall improved mental clarity, performance and stress are fairly extensive, and mental health providers as well as fitness instructors are looking for more ways to integrate breath work and stress reduction.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.