Impact of Exercise and Meditation on Positive Mindset


Exercise has been commonly cited as an effective way to maintain mental and physical health 1 , as well as possibly the most powerful way to promote healthy aging2. It has been shown by several studies that exercise improves the mood by releasing “feel good” hormones, known as endorphins, and can even improve cognitive functions.

Aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing have shown efficacy in increasing emotional resilience by improving the body’s ability to react to stress3. According to 2004 study, “Effects of Exercise on Anxiety, Depression and Mood,” most improvements in mental health are caused by participating in aerobic exercises for 15-30 minutes a day for a minimum of 3 days per week4.

In another study done by Blumenthal and colleagues, the results demonstrated that exercise can have a similar effect on an individual as psychotropic medication. In the study, one hundred fifty-six men and women with major depressive disorder (MDD) were assigned randomly to either a program of aerobic exercise, antidepressants (sertraline hydrochloride), or a combination of exercise and medication. After 16 weeks, all three groups showed similar reductions in depressive symptoms according to various evaluations5. Although medications did provide a quicker initial response, both exercise and medications eventually produced a similar result.

Studies have also shown the effectiveness of non-aerobic activities, such as yoga and meditation, in reducing anxiety symptoms and panic attacks. A certain type of meditation, mindfulness meditation, was shown to have significant effects on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) patients in a recent study. Its results showed suggest that mindfulness meditation may alleviate anxiety symptoms as well as improve one’s stress reactivity and coping mechanisms6. In addition, yoga—an activity that incorporates exercise and meditation—shows high promise. It can help alleviate symptoms of various mental disorders, as well as physical diseases stemming from or aggravated by stress including asthma, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, musculoskeletal disorders and cancer-related symptoms7. Another study exploring the effects of yoga on anxiety and memory compared the mental states of long-term yoga practitioners with healthy individuals who do not practice yoga using a Profile of Mood States (POMS) test. The results showed that the long-term yoga practitioners had lower mental disturbance, tension/anxiety, anger/hostility, and fatigue scores in the test versus those who were not experienced in the practice of yoga8.

How to Meditate:9

Sitting upright or laying face up, relax all parts of your body, imagining each muscle soften. Work your way up till every part of your body feels relaxed. You may want calming music in the background—but you should choose a peaceful environment.

Concentrate on the flow of your breath, with your eyes closed or focused on a certain point. Breath in for a few seconds, and out for a few seconds. Repeat this several times.

Focus your energy inwards, contemplating what you feel inside. Imagine that a golden light is traveling up through your body, and visualize yourself as pure and light.

Realize your capacity for love and care for others, and the beauty of kindness. Think of the things you are grateful for. Even thinking of the things you are grateful for a few minutes a day can be helpful mindfulness meditation.

A little exercise and yoga or meditation could go a long way in improving your physical and mental wellbeing.

Rhea Sheth



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