Before mindfulness: best exercises for mobility, strength and cardio/HIIT

The key to PraXis is doing light exercise before your mindfulness, or contemplative prayer practice.

In general, adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 5 days a week just to stay healthy. In PraXis, exercise is followed by 10- 20 minutes of Christian mindfulness, such as Centering Prayer, Christian Meditation or ceaseless prayer like the Jesus Prayer. [Check out Contemplative Outreach for details on centering prayer].

Below are some examples of different exercises you can do depending on your fitness level.  Use discretion and choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness and health goals. Increase physical activity gradually over time.  Work with your health care provider if you have chronic conditions or symptoms to choose the activity appropriate for you. Apply the Rule of Pain (see the bottom of this post HERE) if you experience pain, fatigue or discomfort.

For many exercises, equipment is not needed.  Mostly you will need quality shoes and comfortable clothes you can move (and sweat) in. Occasionally you may need a yoga mat, resistance bands, small dumbbells, or any type of weight added strength training.

Exercises here fall into three categories, mobility (stretching and flexibility), strength training, and cardio or HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training).  Excerises called Prehabs, and exercises for seniors are described in a separate post. We suggest doing two days of cardio or HIIT, two days of strength, one day of mobility and two days of rest each week. This will not turn you into a body builder, or get you “swoll,” but over time, combined with the Christian diet, you will feel healthier and more alive.

Mobility is related to the joints and their ability to move actively through their full range of motion in order to express muscle flexibility. Here’s a great video that explains the difference between flexibility and mobility.  Here is a 15 minute full body mobility routine, it’s helpful if you have a short stick and a yoga mat or soft surface.  Below is a simple 15 minute stretching routine you can do daily, or for a light warmup before contemplative prayer.

Strength Training benefits of strength training include improving bone strength, body image and weight control. 

Here is a total body workout, no equipment necessary.  16 minute workout includes 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down (See Fitness Blender for more exercises)

Check this a low impact beginner body weight strength training including cardiovascular intervals with no equipment necessary (See Body Fit by Amy for more exercises). Check this out for an advanced body weight exercise, 21 minute workout (See Relentless Muscle for more exercises).

Cardio (low & high impact) in a nutshell, the term aerobic means “with oxygen.” Aerobic exercise and activities are also called cardio, short for “cardiovascular.” It’s a level of activity that you can maintain for an extended period of time. Can you comfortably pass the ‘talk test’ and be able to talk while slightly breathless? If so, you’re engaging in aerobic exercise. 

Here’s a great 30 minute cardio (no equipment) by fitness blender.

If that’s too much, check out this Beginner cardio, or this Intermediate cardio (both by the Body Project).

Alternatively, you can High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) instead of the classic cardio. HIIT is an efficient for fat burning for those who already have a solid basic level of fitness and limited time for working out.  HIIT is a form of anaerobic exercise, which means “without oxygen.” These burn more fat, but are much more intense.

Here’s an intermediate level workout. HIIT Pyramid style workout with warm up & cool down 26 minutes total (Level 4 HIIT). Or try Level 3 or Level 5 if you need to adjust the intensity up or down.

These are great exercises to do for their own sake. But with PraXis, we recommend you not try to overdo it on exercise. We just want you to build healthy habits, and prepare your body to relax into the next phase, mindfulness. Once you cool down, we recommend giving yourself a few minutes to lay on the floor, or sit silently. Then proceed into a 10-20 minute of Centering Prayer or similar contemplation.

Published by Cornelius Swart

Masters Candidate, Vancouver School of Theology

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