Does Mindful Exercise Improve Mood?

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on May 01, 2005

Do you find yourself saying, “Ahh” after “Om”? If so, you are likely to find others who share your bliss. Many people swear they feel better after a yoga session, but not many researchers have actually documented whether regular mind-body exercise—yoga or another type—affects mood. Can lower- intensity, mindful exercise have the same positive impact on mood as more vigorous aerobic activity?

To explore this question further, scientists in Israel compared how single sessions of four different types of exercise affected mood. The investigators recruited 147 female subjects with a mean age of 40 years. The women were enrolled in a teaching program at a physical education college. They participated in one session of yoga, Feldenkrais®, aerobic dance or swimming, or they took a computer class. Researchers assessed the mood of each participant both before and after the exercise session. Computer class participants served as controls.

Researchers found that mood improved after Feldenkrais, swimming and yoga, but not after aerobic dance or computer lessons. They concluded that mindful low-exertion activities, as well as aerobic activities, can enhance mood in a single session (Journal of Psychology, 2003; 137 [5], 405–19).

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at