What are the benefits of holistic exercise?

Holistic exercise, in simple terms, refers to untraditional methods to strengthen the body and mind. This approach often involves looking at a person as a whole – not just a body that needs to look a certain way. It allows for care to be channelled towards one’s spiritual well-being as well as physical form. Practices such as yoga, pilates, and wild swimming exemplify this philosophy.

In this guide, we’ll explore three key benefits of incorporating holistic exercise practices into your life.

1. Improved gut health

For those of us with gut problems, gentler forms of exercise are often preferable to higher-intensity options, as they are kinder to our bodies. Research indicates that participating in low to moderate-intensity physical activity effectively mitigates inflammation and oxidative stress, which holds particular promise for those navigating the challenges of IBS.

In addition, slower-paced exercises facilitate improved oxygen circulation throughout our bodies, thereby supporting the alleviation of bloating and promoting regular bowel movements. On the other hand, high-intensity workouts (like marathon running) tend to put stress on the body, exacerbating symptoms such as diarrhoea and disrupting our daily routines.

Being informed about the strong connection between our brains and guts can put us in a position of power. Only then can we truly acknowledge the significance of practising mindful movement. When we maintain a connection with our bodies during workouts, our minds are better equipped to protect them. By fostering a state of calm, attentiveness, and presence during physical activity, we offer invaluable internal support that brings a profound sense of ease, taking the stress and pressure off our bodies.

Discover: Pilates

Pilates is a form of low-impact exercise that was developed by German physical trainer, Joseph Pilates, in the early 20th century. There are around 50 straightforward and repetitive exercises designed to strengthen the core, flexibility, and improve postural alignment. The workouts vary depending on each individual’s abilities and body requirements. But, generally speaking, the exercises involve full body effort. These repeated movements are performed on spring-assisted apparatus or mats, occasionally incorporating small equipment for added challenge or variation.

Pilates offers benefits beyond just strengthening our cores; it can help those of us with IBS, as it empowers us to address the lack of harmony in our bodies. Controlled movement, focused breath, spring resistance, and gravity, can specifically help us target areas of our body to restore balance.

Find out more about the benefits of Pilates and find a practitioner near you.

2. Mental growth

Holistic activities hold appeal beyond just their physical benefits; the potential results of mental relief and resilience prove to entice many people. These methods of movement can help us manage deeper challenges like depression, anxiety, and stress. With mental health conditions increasing worldwide, it’s no wonder there’s a growing number of people exercising to feel better.

We can make the most of our workouts if we take a mindful approach. Focusing on breathing slowly and deeply, feeling all the physical sensations in our body, and being aware of the environment we are moving in, allows us to establish awareness in the current moment. This awareness permits our nervous system to slow down, enabling our minds and bodies to relax.

Discover: Yoga

Yoga is more than a series of poses; it is a mindful practice that involves serious mental energy, flexibility, balance, and strength. It encourages us to connect to the present moment by focusing on our breath as we hold each position with attentiveness.

Reflective moments are often encouraged in classes, allowing us to form deeper connections to ourselves and the world around us. Yoga serves as a holistic avenue for personal growth and transformation. Many people share stories of the positive impact yoga has had on their mental health, often describing a profound sense of relief from anxiety.

Find out more about the power of yoga therapy and find a practitioner near you.

3. Uniting in community

Social isolation and loneliness can seriously harm our overall health. In recent times, the rates of loneliness have increased, particularly among young people. The global pandemic further intensified feelings of solitude. 

Cultivating good relationships and a strong sense of belonging can improve our day-to-day lives exponentially. We must take care of our emotional well-being, and keeping those special people close to us is arguably one of the best ways to do this. We are all familiar with that sense of ease and joy that comes after spending quality time with friends or loved ones. It’s like lifting a weight off our shoulders.

Holistic exercise gathers people with common interests and desires together in a community. The holistic element is what draws like-minded individuals together – those who are interested in matters beyond mere physical appearance and are driven towards seeking human connection, as well as striving for personal growth and healing. Within these communities, trust and genuine expression can occur more readily.

Discover: Wild swimming

The shared experience of plunging into a cold lake or river can unite us in a simple and powerful way. This sweet act of exchanging glances and smiles as you brace yourself for the icy water becomes an instant icebreaker, breaking down barriers and facilitating genuine connections among participants.

There are numerous spots for wild swimming in the UK, and Facebook groups are an excellent platform to connect with people who are already established in this activity.

The challenge of motivating yourself to get in the water can unite people, as they encourage each other, saying, “Come in, it’s fine once you go under.” Experiencing a sense of achievement with a group, often comprised of strangers, instantly creates a feeling of closeness. A mutual appreciation for the experience and the great outdoors really brings us closer in a special way.

Explore the benefits of cold water swimming on Happiful.

So, what are you waiting for?

Holistic exercises like wild swimming offer not only physical benefits but also help nurture social connections. Research has proven that these connections can reduce depression and anxiety, regulate emotions, and enhance self-love, self-esteem, and empathy. Neglecting our need for community can jeopardise our overall health and well-being. So, get your swimming costume ready!

We all have unique preferences when it comes to physical activity, and it’s essential to listen to our bodies and do what feels right for us in the moment. Whether you crave company, mental stimulation or personal development, engaging in holistic movement practices can enrich your life and fulfil you deeply. 

Don’t fall into the comparison trap of analysing how other people exercise, because what works for them may not work for you. Instead, explore different forms of movement, try new classes, and seek inspiration online until you find what brings a smile to your face and a sense of ease to your body.

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Written by Alessia Sutherberry
Alessia is a coach, content creator and writer who cares deeply about making people feel good about themselves. She helps people understand where their self-limiting beliefs stem from so they can foster self-awareness and self-love.
Written by Alessia Sutherberry
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