Crushing an intense cardio session or circuit workout is an amazing stress reliever, and gives you a healthy outlet to channel any nervous energy you might be feeling. But if your body and mind are in a constant state of stress, you might want to consider swapping some of those workouts for gentler exercises to help quiet the mind and give your self-care practices a healthy boost.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of your rest, relax, and digest response, and one way to ensure its dominancy over your sympathetic nervous system (the one that controls flight-or-flight feelings in response to stress) is to tap into your breath. Maintaining a thoughtful, controlled breathing pattern can keep your heart rate and blood pressure in check, while promoting a calm, easy state of mind.

Mind-body workouts are defined as any type of movement that combines mental focus and controlled breathing to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. No doubt you’ve added yoga to your workout regime, but other types of mind-body workouts include Pilates, Gyrotonics, martial arts, and even your weekly barre class. Keep reading to get the top benefits of mind-body exercise so you can relish in a calmer tomorrow.

1. You’ll sleep better.
If worrying is keeping you up at night, try adding in a gentle movement routine. A study found that in older adults, one hour of easy stretching three times per week resulted in improved sleep, echoing similar results from movement practices such as Qi Gong and yoga.

2. It helps control your blood pressure.
High blood pressure elevates your chances of heart attack or stroke, and along with other healthy practices such as ensuring proper nutrition, lowering your stress levels through movement can contribute to easing blood pressure. The American Heart Association warns that stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors that affect heart health, so it’s important to keep that stress in check.

3. You’ll increase your awareness.
Part of quieting a busy mind comes from slowing down enough to notice your surroundings, how your body is feeling, and how your mind responds. Workouts that require you to home in on specific muscles while connecting your breath to those movements (Pilates is a good one for this) can help you get to know your body better, so you can better understand yourself outside of fitness class, too.

4. It’ll help combat depression.
According to a Harvard Mental Health Letter, studies show that yoga can improve symptoms when you’re down in the dumps. This mind-body practice reduces the impact of stress, helps to alleviate anxiety and depression, improves energy, and can be a self-soothing technique, similar to meditation.

Yoga was the most attended group fitness class in 2019, followed by strength training and dance fitness.
Source: 2019 Fitness in America report

5. You’ll get out of your comfort zone.
Exposing yourself to new things stimulates your creativity and helps you overcome fear. And with more fitness classes moving to online platforms, now is the perfect time to dive into something you’ve never tried before. We love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube (free!), Barre3 for Pilates and barre (15-day free trial, then $30/month), and the Obé app for cardio dance and boxing, but it literally has every style under the sun (30-day free trial, then $27/month).

Chelsea Clarke
Chelsea is a Toronto-based editor and writer, penning everything from investigative reports to inspiring profiles. She’s the current Associate Editor of Strategy Magazine.