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Mind Body Fitness Vs Zen Exercising

There is a new trend in the fitness industry called "mind-body fitness" (or various other names) which combine tough physical workouts with lighter and less stressful components for what some personal trainers are calling "a total mind-body solution".

In reality mind-body is a misnomer. People like to use the words mind-body (or mind-body-soul) whenever they want something to sound New Age in an effort to appeal to people's more religious/spiritual sentimentalities.

Now there is nothing wrong with being spiritual and trying to look for moral guidance. Moral guidance can teach you to be less lazy, less gluttonous, more proactive, more patient about your goals... more virtuous and less sinful = More Exercise and a Better Diet. So nothing wrong with trying to be moral and virtuous, especially when it comes to exercise.

However just because something says "Mind Body" doesn't mean you should buy it. If anything you should instantly recognize it as a slogan / catchphrase, the same as "Authentic", "Traditional", "Old School", or anything else that screams "New and Improved".

Take for example Yoga: Traditional Yoga sounds pretty good, doesn't it? So does Mind-Body Yoga. New and Improved Yoga just sounds like the person is trying too hard.

Mind Body Fitness really is a bit like Interval Training... except Interval Training alternates the difficult and easy exercises multiple times instead of just one each. One Stressful, One Less Stressful. But if you repeat them both 5+ times then it IS Interval Training.

Anywho, back to my main topic: Some examples of this more stressful/less stressful so-called 'mind-body' trend include:
  1. Cy-Yo-One hour workout that combines spinning with yoga.
  2. YogaFit-Stength, cardio and yoga merged into one.
  3. Pilates-Yoga - The core strengthening benefits of Pilates combined with the full body + relaxation of yoga.
  4. Extended Stretch Sequence - Personal trainers may leave the last 10-15 minutes of every few sessions for a good, thorough (and more than likely, much needed) stretch.
  5. Jock Yoga - It's challenging enough for athletes but involves the relaxation that active people need to stay physically healthy.
So when you think of it you can basically combine any light exercise with any heavy exercise to make a combined 'Mind-Body' workout.

  • Weightlifting followed by Yoga
  • Cycling or Spin Class followed by Stretching 
  • Running followed by Surfing or Wind-Surfing.
  • Helping Your Friends Move all their Furniture... followed by tossing around a frisbee or football.
So really, pretty darn easy to do these things. But do they really engage your mind? Not really. The latter component is really just more physically relaxing compared to the previous activity.

How to Add Less-Stressful Exercises into Your Workout

Easy. Think of a really physical stressful activity that you don't like doing, but you know you should do (eg. intense cardio for 45 minutes). Then add an activity you enjoy doing which is more relaxing but still keeps you moving (eg. 30 minutes of archery).

So anyone can do this on their own if they choose to. It takes only a little effort to add it your daily regimen and what you will discover is that the enjoyable exercises make the whole thing worthwhile and enjoyable.


Well Zen is the idea of really focusing on what you are doing. You avoid thinking about other things (distractions) and your goal is to get really into the activity you are doing to the exclusion of everything else. Doing this will result in a more intense workout, create better harmony between mind and body (and better hand-eye control and reflexes.

So Zen Exercising therefore is a very different thing from Mind Body Fitness (which is really more about stressful / non-stressful exercises) because Zen Exercising really gets more into your mental state while exercising.

Some people like to exercise when they're angry. The adrenaline rush from their anger makes them stronger and more energetic. However if you only exercise when angry you probably won't be exercising very often unless you have some serious anger management problems.


Some exercises are really good for developing your mental abilities. Examples:

#1. Zen Archery. Archery combines physical strength and balance with your ability to aim and concentrate on the target. Even your breathing comes into play because if you breathe into your chest and move your shoulders your aim will be knocked off, so you need to concentrate on breathing into your stomach.

#2. Tight-Rope Walking. If you're not paying attention to what you are doing you WILL fall.

#3. Acrobatics / Gymnastics / Figure Skating. Many balance oriented exercises (like surfing) require full concentration.

#4. Yogic Breathing. Concentrating on your breathing patterns is more difficult than you think.

Thus someone wanting to add Zen to their exercise routine needs to be adding things which will cause you to concentrate on your balance, aim and breathing.

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