A new study suggests meditation before exercise could act as a powerful treatment for some symptoms of depression.
The study, published in medical journal Translational Psychiatry, examined the connection between mindfulness meditation combined with exercise and some symptoms of depression involving focus and attention. In particular, the study focused on “rumination,” a symptom of depression that involves a repetitive cycle of dwelling on negative memories and thought processes, according to the study.
The study was performed with 74 volunteers, some of whom had been previously diagnosed with major depressive disorder. According to The New York Times, the volunteers came in twice a week for eight weeks to complete a meditation and exercise program.
First, the participants would perform mindfulness meditation by sitting and counting their breaths. According to Psychology Today magazine, this type of meditation focuses on keeping yourself present in the moment. Participants were taught to notice when their minds started to wander and simply return to counting without judgment. The participants then performed the same kind of meditation while walking and counting footsteps.
After the meditation, participants performed moderate exercise for half an hour on stationary bicycles and treadmills.
According to the study, researchers saw a nearly 40 percent reduction in reported symptoms by the end of the eight-week study. Participants said they experienced significantly less rumination and difficulty directing their attention.
According to the authors of the study, meditation and exercise alone were both well-documented treatments for depression symptoms. This study was the first to specifically study the effects of meditating immediately before exercise. Combining the two activities together, they say, has a greater effect than performing them at separate times would.
While the study was focused on individuals with depression, the study says, combining meditation and exercise can have similar positive effects for all people.