Mind-body training

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Mind-body training (MBT) is a term that describes health and fitness interventions that work on a physical as well as a mental level1,2,3. It is used interchangeably with the term mind-body interventions.7 or as a subset thereof.5,6

Defining MBT[edit]

The United States National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) defines mind-body interventions as activities that purposefully affect mental as well as physical fitness and lists activities such as yoga, tai chi, and pilates as mind-body interventions7. On January 9, 2019, PubMed contained approximately 60 references that refer explicitly to mind-body training8. The Cochrane Library contains 3 systematic reviews that explicitly cite and define mind-body training.6,9,10 and these reviews include the activities defined by the NCCIH. These reviews also consider biofeedback, mindfulness, autogenic training, hypnotherapy, imagery, meditation, and prayer as mind-body training. Some of these, however, such as hypnotherapy, imagery, meditation, and prayer, may be considered by some to be more mind training than mind-body training. One review uses a narrower definition, defining mind-body training as an ‘active’ intervention in which mental and physical exercises are alternated6. A web search will yield mentions of mind-body training in offerings of entities that give yoga, pilates, or meditation training, but explicit definitions of mind-body training are rare. An exception is on online training system called 2Mynds, which explicitly defines itself as mind-body training and explains in detail why5: to create a mental fitness training that is functional, additional stress and elevated heart rate is purposefully induced by repeatedly alternating mind and body sections. This definition is in line with the Cochrane Review by Gendron6, albeit slightly more explicit.

The history of MBT[edit]

Western mind-body training has been popularized in the early 20th century, but dates back to the times of Ancient Greece13. The Greek values of strength and beauty, in combination with Greek mythology, led to activities intended to promote confidence. In terms of Easter mind-body training, Yoga has been around since 3000 BC and was developed as a way to achieve harmony between the heart and soul on a path to enlightenment. In the late 19th and early 20th century a renewed interest developed in mind-body work. Besides an increasing number of visits from Yoga Gurus and an increased interest, a number of medical practitioners and movement specialists developed movement therapies that had a deliberate mental focus or even mental components13. Two pioneers of modern mind-body interventions are Joseph Pilates (1880-1967) and Margaret Morris (1891-1980). A famous statement of Joseph Pilates was “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”15 Margaret Morris had a background in dance and saw a connection between a free dance and a free mind13,16

Rationale and evidence for effectiveness of MBT[edit]

A common rationale for mind-body training is that the mind follows the body and the body follows the mind. A calm body calms the mind and conversely a stressed body causes more cognitive tension. It also works the other way around: if you are happy you move more energetically than when sad. The body-mind connection can be attributed to hormones and chemicals released during movement17. The mind-body connection, dominated by the brain, is often seen as more neurological. However, there are also indications that movement complexity has an impact on brain development, which would also assume a neurological learning effect18. When it comes to explicitly alternating mental and physical exercise sections, the rationale is that the physical activity induces an elevated heart-rate and increase in overall stress that mimics conditions in which athletes need their mental skills the most5. Hence, the conditions for the mental training sections become harder and the training may be more functional. There is some scientific evidence supporting effectiveness because of this type of approach6.

Many of the mind-body training studies found in PubMed4 show positive results, in terms of effectiveness as well as safety. However, most studies are small and have low scientific validity, a finding that dominates many Cochrane Reviews, including the ones that concern mind-body training19-24. Some individual studies8 do show significant and positive results, but this may be due to chance or placebo effects and the significance may diminish when groups are randomized. Side effects are rarely reported in mind-body training. There are however studies that indicate that meditation can have undesired adverse effects on specific clinical populations, for example people with a history of PTSD25,26. With regard to the effect of intensity and duration, there is limited high-quality evidence as well. In a small study observing 87 healthy female participants, undergoing either mind-body training or no training1, participants who actively participated in an online MBT program showed significantly greater resilience toward stress, anger, anxiety, and depression at 8 weeks than at 4 weeks into the study. This supports the idea that the development of skills takes time and that continuing training is beneficial1. This study, however, was not randomized and the placebo effect may be large on the subjective psychological tests scores.


1. Jung Y-H, Ha TM, Oh CY, Lee US, Jang JH, Kim J, et al. (2016) The Effects of an Online Mind-Body Training Program on Stress, Coping Strategies, Emotional Intelligence, Resilience and Psychological State. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0159841. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0159841

2. Lee SW, Mancuso CA, Charlson ME. Prospective study of new participants in a community-based mind-body training program. J Gen Intern Med. 2004;19(7):760-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1492489/

3. Dusan Gruicic, Stephen Benton, (2015) "Development of managers’ emotional competencies: mind-body training implication", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 39 Issue: 9, pp.798-814, https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-04-2015-0026

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind–body_interventions

5. https://www.2mynds.com/what-is-2mynds-mind-body-training/

6. Gendron LM, Nyberg A, Saey D, Maltais F, Lacasse Y. Active mind‐body movement therapies as an adjunct to or in comparison with pulmonary rehabilitation for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 10. Art. No.: CD012290. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012290.pub2. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012290.pub2/full

7. https://nccih.nih.gov/grants/mindbody/framework

8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=%22mind-body+exercise*%22%5Bti%5D+OR+%22mind-body+training*%22%5Bti%5D+OR+%22mind-body+intervention*%22%5Bti%5D

9. Theadom A, Cropley M, Smith HE, Feigin VL, McPherson K. Mind and body therapy for fibromyalgia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001980.pub3. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001980.pub3/full?highlightAbstract=mind%7Cfibromyalgi%7Cfibromyalgia%7Ctherapy%7Cfour%7Ctherapi%7Cfor%7Cwithdrawn%7Cbody%7Cbodi

10. Marc I, Toureche N, Ernst E, Hodnett ED, Blanchet C, Dodin S, Njoya MM. Mind‐body interventions during pregnancy for preventing or treating women's anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD007559. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007559.pub2. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007559.pub2/full?highlightAbstract=withdrawn%7Cmind%7Cinterventions%7Cbody%7Cbodi%7Cintervent

11. 2Mynds - Our story. https://www.2mynds.com/our-story/

12. Mental fitness for tennis players. https://www.eaglefustar.com/mental-fitness/

13. Hoffman J, Gabel CP. The origins of Western mind-body exercise methods. Phys Ther Rev. 2016;20(5-6):315-324. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5022134/

14. Pilates J, Miller WJ. Return to life through Contrology. New York, NY: JJ Augustin; 1945

15. Morris M. My life in movement. London: Peter Owen Publishers; 1969.

16. Larsen PS, Marino F, Melehan K, Guelfi KJ, Duffield R, Skein M. High-intensity interval exercise induces greater acute changes in sleep, appetite-related hormones and free-living energy intake compared to moderate-intensity continuous exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 0, 0, https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2018-0503.

17. Leisman G, Moustafa AA, Shafir T. Thinking, Walking, Talking: Integratory Motor and Cognitive Brain Function. Front Public Health. 2016;4:94. Published 2016 May 25. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00094. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879139/

18. Krisanaprakornkit T, Sriraj W, Piyavhatkul N, Laopaiboon M. Meditation therapy for anxiety disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006. Art. No.: CD004998. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004998.pub2 https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004998.pub2/full

19. Broderick J, Knowles A, Chadwick J, Vancampfort D .Yoga versus standard care for schizophrenia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. Art. No.: CD010554. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010554.pub2 https://www.cochrane.org/CD010554/SCHIZ_yoga-versus-standard-care-schizophrenia

20. Kwong JSW, Lau H, Yeung F, Chau P . Yoga for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. Art. No.: CD009506. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009506.pub4 https://www.cochrane.org/CD009506/VASC_yoga-for-secondary-prevention-of-coronary-heart-disease

21. Theadom A, Cropley M, Smith HE, Feigin VL, McPherson K. Mind and body therapy for fibromyalgia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015. Art. No.: CD001980. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001980.pub3 https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001980.pub3/full?highlightAbstract=withdrawn%7Cmind%7Cmindfulness

22. Liu Z, Sun Y, Zhong B. Mindfulness‐based stress reduction for family carers of people with dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018. Art. No.: CD012791. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012791.pub2 https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012791.pub2/full?highlightAbstract=withdrawn%7Cmind%7Cmindfulness

23. Ngai SPC, Jones AYM, Tam WWS. Tai Chi for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016. Art. No.: CD009953. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009953.pub2 https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009953.pub2/full?highlightAbstract=withdrawn%7Cmind%7Cmindfulness

24. Cebolla A, Demarzo M, Martins P, Soler J, Garcia-Campayo J. Unwanted effects: Is there a negative side of meditation? A multicentre survey. PLoS One. 2017;12(9):e0183137. Published 2017 Sep 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0183137. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28873417

25. Lindahl JR, Fisher NE, Cooper DJ, Rosen RK, Britton WB (2017) The varieties of contemplative experience: A mixed-methods study of meditation-related challenges in Western Buddhists. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0176239. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176239. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28542181