27 March 2010

The mindfulness of morning weight training

Here’s an interesting connection: NICABM has been hosting a teleconference series on brain science, and now this research comes out.

Weight training is good for you! I knew that already, but now science is talking about it, as well. It's not just for narcissists or body builders. It's actually really, really good for your brain. And I firmly believe that the mindfulness by weight-lifting has a lot to do with it.

I had a chance to see Dr. Dan Siegel (whom Ruth Buczynski talked with a few weeks back) when he came to talk at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center last weekend. One of the things that came through loud and clear was that intentional, focused, mindful activity clearly affects the brain’s health. Even 10 minutes a day can have an impact.

I have been lifting weights, on and off, for over 30 years. I have also engaged in other sorts of exercises, including toning and balance movements. I can personally attest that the focus and intention that is required when lifting weights — even if they are not very heavy — creates a much more involved state of mind than lighter exercise.

Even lifting light 2.5 – 5 lb weights requires more attention — both to movements and to the state of your body. And when you lift heavier weights, focus and intention and attention are not optional. The last thing you want to do is strain or injure yourself. When you’re lifting weights, you MUST pay deliberate attention. Sometimes to every aspect of your movement and posture.

Interestingly, after a number of sedentary years, I began doing light weight training each morning — nothing too intense, but it is weight training — within the past year. I’m in my mid-40’s but I noticed a significant difference in how well my brain was working, all across the board, in the space of a few weeks. I was more alert, more responsive, and I needed a lot less coffee to get going in the morning and keep going throughout the day.

Now, many months on down the road, I’m ‘hooked’ and I do this as a mindfulness practice each and every morning. It gives me a clear edge in my work, and in my life. The benefits and tangible results are numerous: a new job, improved time management, better rest, 15 fewer pounds to carry around (and my weight holding steady), and improved overall happiness, to name a few.

I’m a believer. And I would love to hear what Dr. Dan Siegel has to say about this.