Programs that combine mindfulness with exercise might help to eliminate stress, increase quality of life, and build a better brain. Meditation helps to calm the mind and bring us into the present moment. Going for a run wakes up the body, immerses us in a flow state, and ramps up the production of blissful neurotransmitters that mimic the effects of cannabis. But using the two together might create a synergistic effect that leads to the production of new brain cells, a physiological event called neurogenesis.
Mental and physical (MAP) training pairs silent meditation with aerobic exercise. Researchers developed MAP training as a treatment option for patients experiencing depression, trauma, and stress. They based the program on research that suggests the two modalities can produce a favourable effect on the brain.
Aerobic exercise can increase the production of neurons, whereas effortful learning (such as starting meditation), can help to integrate these new brain cells into the existing network. Previous research found MAP training to significantly reduce depressive symptoms and ruminative thoughts.
A new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shines a new light on the stress-busting effect of the protocol. Researchers recruited medical students and guided them through eight weekly sessions consisting of 30 minutes of silent meditation and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
At the end of the eight-week study, the medical students experienced reductions in depressive thoughts, less perceived stress, and greater quality of life.
The researchers concluded, “Overall, MAP training offers a time-efficient and evidence-based means of maintaining mental and physical wellness for students during medical school and into their future, as well as their patients alike.”