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Spirituality & Sports

Being active is not just physical, it is also mental

Story by Becca Edwards

Like last year’s fad workout trend, the mind-body connection can be easily forgotten. However, being active is not just purely physical, it is also mental — even to the point of being spiritual. So, before you hit the gym, roll out your yoga mat or lace up your running shoes, let’s work through some simple ways you can enhance your fitness level by incorporating spirituality into your sports.

Women working out with women

In her best-selling book “The Hormone Cure,” Dr. Sara Gottfried writes, “The original data on stress response was gathered from men by Walter Cannon, the doctor who coined the term fight or flight… Newer data shows that stress elicits a different reaction in women — what Professor Shelley Taylor of the University of California at Los Angeles calls tend and befriend.” Apparently, when under stress, women, more so than men, seek out the company of others, especially women.

when under stress, women, more so than men, seek out the company of others, especially women”

Gottfried continued with, “When socializing with other moms, and we dish about our lives or troubleshoot behavioral problems in our kids and husbands, we form a network of stress-reducing, protective females and leverage oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone that also acts as a neurotransmitter (brain chemical).” Note: When oxytocin rises in our blood and brains, cortisol, a stress hormone that has been linked to sleep loss and weight gain, lowers.

Women can couple the power of female camaraderie with athletics to achieve far better wellness results. Some ideas include a weekly walking group, establishing a relay team to train for a specific race, sharing a personal trainer with a friend or two, putting together a tennis or golf group, or having a yoga buddy who joins you for coffee after class.

How various environments can boost your mood

Run or walk on a treadmill for 45 minutes. Then try running or walking on the beach or local park or preserve for the same amount of time, activating the same level of intensity. Chances are the latter workout will feel better and seemingly go by much faster. Here’s why: Where we exercise influences our mood and therefore our ability to better enjoy our workout. Let’s take light for example. Exposure to real sunlight provides the body with a healthy dose of vitamin D, a nutrient that is key to making the body function efficiently. Another example is natural surroundings. The color green has been found to have a calming effect on the subconscious and reduce stress.

Moving meditation

The Power of Moving Meditation

Moving meditation allows for you to be present, consciously move, and even incorporate a mantra, or a motivational statement repeated to aid in introspection and concentration. Research has also found moving meditation may increase brain size, boost memory, and delay dementia. When we talk about moving mediation, the mind instantly goes to yoga. Don’t get me wrong. I love yoga and I highly recommend Yin-minded (i.e. restorative) or gentle flow classes for moving meditation. Even still, there are several other exercise modalities that allow you to accomplish moving mediation. These include Thai Chi and Qigong, as well as simply taking a walk barefoot on the beach or in a field.

Man’s Best Workout Friend

The special health report, Get Healthy, Get a Dog: The health benefits of canine companionship from Harvard Medical School collected hundreds of studies from around the globe that address the physical, mental, and emotional benefits humans derive from their relationships with dogs. It found exercising with your dog helped you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life, as well as made kids more active, secure, and responsible, improved the lives of older individuals, made people more social and less isolated, and may lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

By adding a little feel good, soulfulness into your training, you will find a more mindful and consistent level of conditioning that goes far beyond six-pack abs and vein-popping reps and allows you to better stabilize your blood sugar and hormone levels and maintain your weight and commitment to being fit — both physically and mentally.