In our vast world of cultural differences, there's one thing we all share equally – the wealth of knowledge gained from medical research, scientific tests and university studies. It doesn't matter what nation or country we call home; we all gain from this knowledge. This brings us to a topic that has no strangers, our health.
Numbers don't lie and neither do scientific results. Research and tests continue to support certain claims ... one of these is: there is, without doubt, a definitive, close relationship between physical movement/exercise and our physical body.
Results don't lie - those who value their health and exercise regularly are healthier and stronger than those that don't. This health and strength are not limited to physical muscle either, but reach deeper inside us to our very core.
If our health is important to us, we need to be exercising.
The vain days of exercising solely for looks are a thing of the past. The same movements that work to improve our physical body, have proven their positive influence in other areas too.
Physical activity/exercise is now viewed as mental and spiritual conditioning as well as physical conditioning. It needs to be embraced and accepted as an integral part of everyone's physical, mental and emotional/spiritual practice/arsenal.
Because exercise connects our brains and hearts and helps silence our "chattering mind", it is the perfect time for inner reflection. Aside from actively meditating, it can't be beaten as a tool for quieting the mind and clearing the way for a higher connection.
Once our "mind chatter" has been shut down, clarity takes over and we're able to focus on what really matters. We make wiser decisions, identify problems and process issues quicker. Our diets automatically benefit, as we naturally begin gravitating towards foods that contribute to our health rather than subtract from it.
Physical activity empowers the soul and quiets the mind by:
• Reducing and releasing damaging stress hormones
• Improving heart rate and boosting resilience to stress factors
• Releasing inner pressure and activating energy centres
• Decreasing damaging inflammation in the body
• Boosting happy endorphins and encouraging an optimistic mindset. Exercise turns on a wealth of positive hormones. These hormones in turn help keep our mindset positive and upbeat.
• Bringing focus into the present moment. When our mind becomes fully engaged in the moment (which exercise helps us to achieve) we shift into a calmer and more-restful state of being because peace is found only in the moment.
We can boost and heighten our spiritual connection by adding a few tactics below:
• Listening to soothing music or encouraging podcasts while exercising or just enjoying the sounds of nature around us helps turn our physical exercise routine into a deeper spiritual one.
• Focusing on our breath allows us to boost our spiritual experience as well. Breathing is an important part of any exercise. For example, it helps us execute – to gain strength for lifts and other movements. Just as the brain can be induced into a state of meditation using breathing techniques, focusing on our breath while exercising helps clear the fog from our minds allowing us to connect with a higher power.
• Repeating positive mantras in our minds as we work through our routines such as "I am healthy and strong" or "my health is my priority". This is what empowers us, eventually takes residence in our minds (over negative thoughts) and builds our spiritual muscle even stronger.
The time we spend exercising is also the ideal time to consciously reflect on and be grateful for all the blessings in our lives. Expressing gratitude and appreciation puts us into a positive, uplifting frequency.
When we're wrapped up in outer circumstances/dramas, we often become blind to what's important and don't embrace and recognise the greatest blessings in our lives. The people, circumstances and stories we tell. Whatever is unfolding, gratitude matters.
Physical activity/exercise helps build inner strength and will too because it takes discipline to stay the course through life's challenging temptations. A strong inner muscle can make the difference between "staying the path" or "wandering aimlessly in the wilderness" when the next challenge arises, and exercise is a powerful force towards building that strong will.
Beyond the visible, outer results we all experience and enjoy when exercising, it's obvious and very clear that our internal self gets a major lift as well. We can't lift part of ourselves without lifting the rest and exercise is the one thing that offers us the opportunity to cross-train our body, heart and soul, all at the same time.
It shapes and tones our body, makes us tingle and feel happier inside and out (got to love those "happy hormones") and better overall.
Our spiritual connection is deeper, our mental clarity is sharper, and our body is stronger and healthier. We feel super-energised and alive, with a true sense of inner and outer wellbeing.
It seems the key to growing spiritually, mentally and physically has been as close as our exercise routine or gym membership. That's how powerful exercise/physical activity is.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness