Should You Meditate or Exercise First?

Woman meditating
A young woman is meditating in a studio room. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Exercise and meditation both help to promote health on all levels, including your physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Regular moderate activity helps to maintain overall vitality, manage weight and keep stress levels low. Meditation improves focus and lowers stress. Both disciplines are important in whatever order your schedule permits. But, practicing one after the other can have certain effects on the way you are able to perform.

Exercise Effects

A proper combination of exercise and nutrition helps increase fat loss, muscle strength and energy. A body functioning at peak efficiency contributes to soaring energy levels, so you may feel energized and happy even hours after you have exercised. This is primarily due to the release of endorphins, opioids in the pituitary glands that block pain, decrease appetite, promote feelings of euphoria and reduce tension and anxiety. According to Lift for Life, the level of endorphins in your blood can increase up to five times that of resting levels during 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise. Over time, you become more sensitive to these endorphins, so when they are produced they stay in your blood for a longer period of time.

Meditation Effects

While exercise tends to promote energy through the release of endorphins, regular meditation is typically practiced to promote relaxation. According to Project-Meditation, the area of the brain that feels the greatest effects of meditation is associated with happiness. In addition, other research shows that meditation helps relax your mind and body, release built-up stress and promote feelings of peace and well-being. Rather than exhaust the body through aerobic activity, meditation utilizes focused breathing and mind exercises that are aimed at reducing heart rate, respiration and other signs of stress. Rigorous physical activity will trigger the release of endorphins, whereas meditation will reduce cortisol, a chemical related to stress and overeating.

Recommendations

It is apparent that exercise in the form of aerobic activity, including walking, running, swimming, dancing and hiking, can promote health and well-being similar to that of mindful meditation. Both allow you to release stress and engage in health-promoting activities. However, the main difference between the two is that aerobic exercise is energizing and active, while mediation is calming and practiced to promote relaxation. Therefore, according to Street Directory, most exercise enthusiasts will stretch prior to their workouts and include a simple meditation that can improve their focus. While focusing on breathing and the target muscle, stretching and relaxing these muscles prior to a workout will give your body and mind the guided and focused energy needed to exercise properly.

Pre-workout Meditation

Practicing a simple meditation before you begin your exercise is a beneficial way to stretch your muscles with focus and control. It is natural for your mind to drift while you are meditating but, through practice, you can guide it back to your intention of the moment. Try filling up with focused energy prior to your workout by flexing the target muscle during the inhale and relaxing it during the exhale. This simple pre-workout meditation can be done in your car before entering the gym, or inside before you start your routine. Begin by sitting up straight, taking deep abdominal breaths, slowly exhaling, closing your eyes and concentrating on the muscles you are planning to exercise. Continue for five minutes, and focus on your breathing and the target muscle while stretching and relaxing.

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