The benefit exercise brings to the mind

Disciplines such as Yoga are increasingly popular as they focus on the mind and breathing as well as the body.
Disciplines such as Yoga are increasingly popular as they focus on the mind and breathing as well as the body.
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With the new year comes a stack of new resolutions and for many top of the pile will be more exercise.

But the days of merely ticking a box with an exercise class or the odd session at the gym are long gone and the way we approach keeping fit in 2016 is expected to be as much about the mind as the body.

People’s awareness of stress and the damage it can do to mental health is higher now than it has been for decades, we are increasingly aware that looking after ourselves is as much about managing that stress and keeping our minds healthy as it is about getting our five a day and not smoking.

Research has shown exercise can have similar and in some cases even more effective, results than antidepressant drugs. Stress relief is cited as a key benefit for people who see exercise as a crucial part of their lives. Raising the heart rate and flooding our veins with oxygen triggers chemical reactions that offset the strain and exhaustion brought on by increasingly demanding lives.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen the development of an increasingly conscious approach to exercise,” said James Trevorrow, Product Innovation Manager at Virgin Active.

“This will continue as we increasingly link the way we exercise and the positive effect it has on our mind.”

‘Mindful fitness’ is growing in more targeted ways too borne out by the growing popularity of disciplines like Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, where calm, focus and deep breathing play central roles. Celebrity trainer Matt Roberts whose clients include Michael McIntyre and David Cameron, said Yoga had become a perennial player in the trend lists. “It is a discipline which offers a massive range of different styles as well as continuously delivering results for participants and that means it will continue to top the list.”

There are those however, who look to exercise for their adrenalin fix.

Kenton Cool, who climbed Everest for the 11th time in 2013 said it was all about a changing mentality.

“Life is about testing yourself and pushing your own limits. We are starting to see this ‘challenge mentality’ becoming part of our approach to exercise, how much we actually know our own bodies and how far can we push ourselves.”

The escapism of these challenges also plays a key part with people wanting to make their lives about more than just work and income.

“Adventure is catching on. In 2016, we think more people are going to be trying new things, whether that’s taking on a challenge like Tough Mudder, learning to ski, or something life-changing like walking the Nile,” said explorer Levison Wood.


Wearable tech such as Fitbits and Jawbone have led to an increase in ‘smart training’ where apps give feedback on performance.

It is a trend that has been growing for the past five years and has now exploded with gadgets that can be worn in any sport and a mountain of data that can be collected.

The evidence on whether expensive gadgets give better results is mixed.

The data collected can be specific and targeted helping to reach exercise goals and challenges.