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Exercise Or Mindfulness For Better Mental Health? | Cambridge Study Has The Answers

Exercise Or Mindfulness For Better Mental Health? | Cambridge Study Has The Answers
Evangeline Howarth
Writer and expert3 years ago
View Evangeline Howarth's profile

Being in the midst of yet another lockdown, on top of it being one of the coldest and darkest months of the year, it’s no surprise that many of us are struggling to stay at the peak of mental wellness right now.  

If you’ve read up on anything to do with mental health in recently, then you’ve probably come across mindfulness. It’s being taught everywhere from schools to offices to universities across the world as one of the best ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and everything in between, but could it have a rival? 


The Study

According to a new study by Cambridge University, mindfulness isn’t necessarily the best way to boost your mental health.1 In fact, there could be many different options that are just as effective in promoting good mental health. 

The researchers reviewed 136 studies from around the world that had looked into the most effective methods for improving mental health. Out of the 11,000 participants, they wanted to see if mindfulness would win out in a non-clinical, everyday environment, but the results were quite different. 

In fact, they found that while in most cases, mindfulness was found to be better than doing nothing, in over 1 in 20 of the trials, mindfulness didn’t work. No need to despair, though, as there are other solutions, according to the researchers. 

They found that the lauded mindfulness, in most cases, was no better or worse than other methods for improving mental health, such as exercising. 


So, what does this mean?

If you’re struggling to get mindfulness to work for you, then try something else instead. Whether that’s taking a daily walk, or performing a few HIIT workouts per week, or even taking up something creative. 

The leader of the study, Dr Julieta Galante, has explained that while they could find very little to suggest mindfulness was better than other practices at improving mental health, that there is plenty to support the mental and physical benefits of exercise. 

Oxford University's study into 1.2 million Americans even found that there was a positive impact of just 2-6 hours of exercise a week on mental health.2

Just like with everything else to do with our bodies, what makes us feel better and perform at our best is unique to each individual. Chances are, if you’re into Myprotein, then you already understand the power of a good workout for your mood! 


Take home message

If you’re struggling right now, remember you’re not alone and that there’s a way out. Feel like mindfulness could be the answer? Then give it a go! But don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help when you need it too. Personally, we find there’s nothing better than throwing a few weights around to lift our spirits... 


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1. Galante, J., Friedrich, C., Dawson, A. F., Modrego-Alarcón, M., Gebbing, P., Delgado-Suárez, I., … & Jones, P. B. (2021). Mindfulness-based programmes for mental health promotion in adults in nonclinical settings: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trialsPLoS medicine18(1), e1003481.

2. Chekroud, S. R., Gueorguieva, R., Zheutlin, A. B., Paulus, M., Krumholz, H. M., Krystal, J. H., & Chekroud, A. M. (2018). Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1· 2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional studyThe Lancet Psychiatry5(9), 739-746.

Evangeline Howarth
Writer and expert
View Evangeline Howarth's profile
Evangeline is a Veganuary convert and newbie vegan with a degree in English and French from the University of Nottingham. Having recently ditched the meat and dairy, she really enjoys the new flavours and cooking techniques she’s encountered on a plant-based diet. She’s been shocked by the millions of ways you can use tofu, however still hasn’t found a decent cheese substitute! When she’s not in the office or eating, Evangeline usually out running or sailing. As a qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor and a marathon runner, she knows the importance of providing your body with the right nutrients for endurance sports as well as a busy lifestyle. Find out more about Evie's experience here.