Ab-Sense Makes the Mind Grow Stronger

Meditative approach to exercise can reduce anxiety and stress

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(HealthDay) -- It's easy to let your mind wander when you exercise. Your job. Your family. Your friends. Your mounting bills. But some forms of exercise are encouraging practitioners to bring mindfulness back into exercise.

One such form of exercise is called NIA, or neuromuscular integrative action, according to an article from The Record of Bergen County, N.J.

NIA, which means "with purpose" in Swahili, is based on martial arts, yoga, modern dance, jazz and other movement therapies. The moves include powerful punches and gentle, swaying movements. It is taught as a mind-body approach to fitness. Students are asked to interpret the movements and to remain aware of their bodies as they use their strength, flexibility and creativity to make the moves their own.

"We invite people to become aware of what they do, so they can make choices that will make them feel better and make movement more efficient," says Debbie Rosas, a co-creator of NIA who lives in Portland, Ore. "The end result is a body that is fitter and stronger."

Some health experts say a meditative approach to fitness can reduce stress and anxiety levels while boosting self-esteem. A 1997 study showed that women who participated in a mind-body fitness class cut their levels of stress, while those who participated in traditional classes saw their anxiety increase, the article says.

To find out more about meditation and its positive effects on mental health, you can read this article from Mindfulness in Plain English, or this one from the Meditation Society of America.

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