'Mindful' Workouts Match Aerobic Exercise for Health Benefits, Study Finds

·1-min read

When, back in January, we did our annual audit of the wellness trends predicted to take off this year, two keywords emerged: slow down. Our fitness-industry futurists pointed to a new appreciation of breathwork, low-intensity training and mental health-focused movement. Punishing yourself with a 5am HIIT class seven days a week? Very 2019.

Plus, as a new study shows, easy doesn’t mean ineffective. According
to a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the slow focused, mindful movements that make up traditional tai chi practice can match aerobic exercise for health benefits.

Researchers studied 543 participants – all of whom were 50 or older and carrying extra weight around their middles – for over 12 weeks and found that regular tai chi reduced waist circumference and cholesterol in the same way as faster, sweatier efforts. That could be due to its ability to curb stress, or simply because these extra moments of mindfulness support the formation of healthier habits.

This idea is backed by science: a separate study* found a link between mindfulness practice and more consistent exercise habits; further research showed that subjects who added meditative practices to their daily routines had higher levels of activity.

Limit HIIT to non-consecutive days, and add in slow sessions focused on control, concentration and skill development. It worked for the tortoise, after all.

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