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Does Mindful Exercise Improve Mood?

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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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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