Mental Relaxation Must Be a Part of Fitness Programs

In many beginner’s fitness programs, you can find only topics about physical fitness, but to be healthy, you cannot train just your body. As all professional athletes tell you, only when your body and mind are unified, you can achieve great results. If you care about your health, you must take care of themental side, especially its relaxation.

First, let’s talk about physical relaxation. When you train yourself, you need to take a rest from workout regularly to get strong. For example, if you do weight training, the muscle you trained need 2 days to recover from the “damage” you made. This “curing” process makes your muscles stronger, and last longer. If you workout the same muscles everyday, the muscle does not have a chance to recover and eventually really gets damaged. At the first stage, you may want to plan to workout three times a week, every other day, and get two days off over a weekend for other fun activities.

A woman walking in the woods

Walking in the woods is beneficial for the body and the mind

If you once get used to fitness, then you can workout 5-6 days a week, but different body parts. For example, Monday and Thursday, you workout legs, Tuesday and Friday, you workout chest and back, and Wednesday and Saturday, you workout arms. Of course, each day, you also do cardio workout, but different types. For example, Monday and Thursday, swimming, Tuesday and Friday running, and Wednesday and Saturday elliptical machine workout. Then you totally relax on Sunday.

You can set this arrangement differently; Monday, Thursday, and Saturday for full body weight training, Tuesday and Friday for cardio workout, and Wednesday and Sunday off. Or cardio 3 times a week and weight training twice a week. Whatever you do, take one day off from physical workout.

Of course, taking a day off from physical activity does not mean that you need to stay in bed all day. You should do something you like. It is really nice if you can walk slowly in the woods. You can relax physically, and you can actually absorb healthy chemicals emitted from the green and you get healthier. “Shin-rin-yoku” (Forest green bathing) is extremely popular in Japan to promote health. Read the article related to that.

You also need mental relaxation. Probably you are a very busy person. From when you wake up till hitting the bed again at night, you are thinking, planning, absorbing information, processing the data, communicating with someone etc etc, you don’t have a minute to take a deep breath. One way to take a mental break is actually physical workout. That is why some people love to go working out during the lunch break. A thirty minute cardio workout gives your brain a great amount of oxygen it did not get during the morning work hour, and the brain is ready to work again. Note that I, personally, don’t like to read a book, listen to music, or watch TV while working out. I rather concentrate on what I am doing while working out. I believe that it will give me far more benefit for my body and mind. But again it is just me. You could be totally different.

If you cannot do that because of the work schedule, I recommend doing a short meditation/breathing exercise three times a day; probably 5 minutes each. First one is when you get to work; do the meditation/breathing exercise to clear up your brain so that you can make yourself ready for the day. The second, just before the lunch at lunch break. Forget about everything what you did during the morning, and clear up the mind for 5 minutes. Then the last one, just before going to bed. For this one, you should try to gradually relax your body while doing mediation/breathing so that when you lay down, you are ready to fall asleep immediately. According to sleeping lab studies, many people take 20 to 30 minutes to fall asleep after laying down. That is a waste of time.

So what are the benefits of mental relaxation? First of all, your brain needs a break! While sleeping, the body including the brain recovers from many damages you caused during day time. However, if your brain is wound up, and cannot relax, your sleep is shallow, and your body cannot get full benefit of sleeping. When you are mentally relaxed, the brain can also release appropriate hormones and your body can get a full benefit.

A woman meditating

Mental relaxation promotes your health, and should be a part of your fitness programs.

Secondly, if you are stressed, and don’t know when to relax, it lowers your immune system capacity, which makes you get sick easily. The stress also brings your blood pressure up, and may cause cardiovascular disease. Stress also leads you to addictive behavior such as smoking, over eating, or excessive drinking. By relaxing mentally, you can avoid, or at least, lower the risk of these conditions.

Thirdly, by relaxing plus breathing, you can stimulate your brain activity. The brain really needs lots of oxygen, but many people have a shallow breathing and cannot provide enough oxygen to the brain. They, instead, rely on coffee and other drinks with caffeine. Although caffeine has beneficial effect to the body, too, you really need oxygen first.

Fourthly, mental relaxation keeps you out of depression and other negative mental conditions. One in five people in the US experience some sorts of mental depressions during the life time, and one recent study shows that there is a moderate correlation between a history of depression and dementia in the later life.

Finally, mentally relaxed people are more open and amicable, and because of that tend to be socially popular. Having and knowing more people is a single most important factor to be successful in life (whatever you define your “success” in life).

Probably there are much more benefit of the mental relaxation, but I think that these are more than enough to motivate you to take 15 minutes a day to do some relaxation exercise. Enjoy your physical activity, and strengthen your mental capacity, but you also want to enjoy sweet relaxation physically and mentally.

Enjoy your life. It is yours, and yours only.

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