Gimmee My Endorphins: How Adding A Program Of Meditation And Mindfulness To Your Exercise Regime Can Boost Endorphin Release
Most people who run or regularly perform other strenuous physical activity will tell you all about endorphins. They will sometimes go on and on until you’re ready to release a few endorphins of your own–on their face, with your fist.
But there is proven truth in the tales of the “runner’s high:” endorphins to the point of euphoria are possible through exercise.
You may also have heard about the endorphin kick some people get from meditation. And there is ample evidence of the physical effects of this very different kind of exercise, one of mindfulness and seeking to relieve stress and anxiety.
But an exciting new study shows that a combination of the two–exercise and meditation–can have synergistic effects on the release of endorphins in us beyond what we might think of as the sum of two.
The study, out of the departments of Exercise Science and Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University looked at what happens when a group of people are put on what they called a MAP training program, which stands for mental and physical training.
Each of the participants engaged in sessions that consisted of 30 minutes of focused-attention meditation, and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. The study’s participants numbered 52, and they took part in eight weeks of the training, at a rate of twice per week.
And the results were staggering: everyone involved in the study reported fewer depressive symptoms, as well as fewer “ruminative thoughts.” Not only did the people who tested beforehand for some level of depression experience this change, so did the participants who were considered to be depression-free.
What was perhaps most fascinating was that it was the combination of meditation and exercise that had the most effects.
“Although previous research has supported the individual beneficial effects of aerobic exercise and meditation for depression, these findings indicate that a combination of the two may be particularly effective in increasing cognitive control processes and decreasing ruminative thought patterns,” wrote the study’s authors in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Indeed, with such a synergistic effect, the implications are that someday doctors might be able to recommend a treatment plan that not only includes both meditation and exercise, but leaves out the dangerously overprescribed drugs–and just plain dangerous–drugs that today’s medical community relies on so heavily.
The study makes for a fascinating read on its own, but in the meantime, there’s no time like the present for some meditation before you lace on those running shoes and head out into the wide, wide world!