How 'slow fitness' can boost your physical and mental health

An expert has revealed exactly how to embrace the slow fitness trend. (Getty Images)
An expert has revealed exactly how to embrace the slow fitness trend. (Getty Images) (Thierry Dosogne via Getty Images)

While HIIT, spin, and crossfit classes have legions of fans, some of us prefer to partake in slightly less intense workouts. So, if this is you, you’ll be glad to hear that ‘slow fitness’ is seeing a rise in popularity.

In fact, Google searches for ‘mindful exercise’ have risen by 233% year on year, meaning more and more people are embracing exercise that’s both good for your body and your mental health.

This is because, while high intensity exercises can benefit your overall health, studies have found it causes a steep increase in cortisol levels – the hormones responsible for stress.

Low intensity exercises, on the other hand, see opposite effects, instead reducing cortisol levels.

What is slow fitness?

“Slow fitness represents our growing desire for ‘slow living’ as a whole which has begun to filter into our fitness routines,” Martyn Oakey, Head of Fitness at Everlast Gyms, part of Sports Direct, says.

“The approach says that you can replace strenuous and fast exercise with slower, more mindful movements and still reap the physical benefits of improved strength.”

Oakey adds that the movement is just one more shift towards a “more holistic wellness that encompasses the body and the mind in equal measure”.

Smiling female Pilates studio owner
Pilates is an example of slow fitness. (Getty Images) (Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa via Getty Images)

How to embrace slow fitness

Whether you’re a workout novice or a regular gym-goer, embracing the slow fitness trend will look different for everyone.

“[It will depend] on your existing fitness routine and your goals – from strength training, to improving your flexibility, to wanting to incorporate more mindfulness – it’s best to look at the fundamental elements that define slow fitness and see how they can fit into your own routines.”

Ultimately, Oakey adds, slow fitness means “moving slower and undertaking exercises that feel less strenuous which you can adapt into almost any workout routine”.

One example of slow fitness includes LIIT, or low-intensity interval training as it replaced the short burns seen in HIIT with longer, lower-intensity periods of exercise and longer rests.

“On a similar vein, for strength training, look at slowing down your reps and focusing on the quality of each lift rather than fitting in as many reps as possible in a short period of time,” Oakey adds.

“In fact, by doing so, your muscles get to experience the tension of each lift for longer which helps increase strength and stamina.”

Other examples of slow fitness exercises include practices such as pilates which focuses on slow, controlled movements. Even the popular 12-3-30 method from TikTok is an example of how, swapping from running to incline walking, can help you to workout for longer and burn off more energy.

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