By Jonny Lupsha, Current Events Writer
An ex-Marine held the plank position for over eight hours, setting a world record, CNN reported. The 62-year-old performed the feat on February 15 in an effort to raise mental health awareness. Fitness at older ages often involves mindfulness.
According to the CNN article, George Hood “set the male world record for longest time in the abdominal plank position, is 62, and says he’s in the greatest shape of his life.” Hood remained in the challenging pose for 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 15 seconds. He performed the feat at a gym that “helps address mental illness through exercise and professional help,” the article said.
Planking is difficult for anyone, but Hood is proof that it’s possible to stay physically fit as you age. Additionally, aside from the obvious regimens of eating healthy and exercising, keeping in good shape over the years involves “mindful fitness,” an integration of physical and mental exercises.
Defining Mindful Fitness
Physical fitness has evolved over the years as science has continued to learn about the inner-workings of the human body. Mindful fitness is one example of that, although some of its practices date back to ancient times.
“Mindfulness fitness practices are types of exercises intended to help you feel the sense of unity between your mind and body,” said Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura, a fitness and wellness consultant. “Mindfulness practices use a combination of physical and psychological exercise to cultivate both physical and psychological health and wellness. Mindful fitness practices include programs like yoga, tai chi, and the martial arts, which combine physical exercise with deliberate breathing and mental-skills training.”
Dr. Bonura said that these kinds of practices offer the physical benefits of strength and flexibility as well as the psychological benefits of improving self-esteem and reducing depression and anxiety. There’s also an added incentive for seniors.
“Mindfulness practices may be particularly well-suited for older adults, as they offer gentle, well-rounded fitness programs with a focus on balance and overall strength, with a low risk for injury,” she said. “[They] also support our sense of being self-sufficient and independent; they allow us to feel in control of our own care, our own well-being. And as we get older, that sense of feeling in control becomes more and more important.”
How Mindful Fitness Benefits You
Yoga and tai chi each promote good physical and mental health, simultaneously. The mental health benefits relate to the physical practices that are gained.
“A consistent yoga practice will, over time, reduce your reactivity to stress, both physiologically and psychologically,” Dr. Bonura said. “The common ways we physically manifest stress—rapid breathing, elevated heart rate, and muscular tension—are all improved through regular yoga practice. My own research has shown that just six weeks of yoga training helps increase self-control, and that this increased self-control may be related to improvements in other aspects of psychological well-being, such as anxiety and mood.”
Likewise, tai chi relaxes us and thus lowers our blood pressure. Dr. Bonura said tai chi also involves gentle movements and breathing exercises, is usually a social experience, and research suggests it can reduce perceptions of pain. Additionally, tai chi helps improve balance, which can be an issue as we age.
“Some interesting research has found that having a fear of falling can actually make you more likely to fall, and some studies have found that tai chi training, in particular, helps reduce the fear of falling,” she said.
Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura contributed to this article. Dr. Bonura is a fitness and wellness consultant with decades of experience teaching the benefits of physical and mental health to elite athletes, higher education institutions, nonprofit community organizations, and corporations. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Florida State University.