Mindfulness practices have a wide range of benefits to well-being. A recent study explored how prompting mindfulness training via text messaging helps in improving physical activity levels in older adults.
Eighty-seven subjects age 50 to 75 (average 64) were assigned to either a mindfulness group or a control group. Participants were members of a fitness center who did not meet recommended physical activity levels of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week. The mindfulness group received a text reminder for a 10-minute meditation exercise three mornings per week for two weeks, while the control group received texts about currency exchange rates. On the same days the texts were received, both groups received another text in the evening that asked about their physical activity for the day. The mindfulness exercise was a 10-minute audio recording that emphasized breathing, body sensations, and self-awareness.
Overall, the mindfulness group showed significant improvements in physical activity levels and in motivation for exercise, while controls showed no such improvements. More specifically, the mindfulness group engaged in more physical activity on text-reminder days than on no-text days, as well as higher average weekly physical activity, compared to the control group. The mindfulness group also showed improved intrinsic motivation and less amotivation for exercise, compared to before the intervention, while the control group showed no change in motivation. Finally, 20% of mindfulness participants, but none of the controls, met recommended activity levels by the end of the study.
It’s unclear if mindfulness texts would continue to be effective in the long-term, but participants may continue the practice on their own. In contrast to other interventions, the mindfulness training did not specifically encourage physical activity. Even so, the psychological benefits of mindfulness seem to have motivated the older adults to increase their physical activity levels. At the least, this study supports the addition of a mindfulness component to physical activity interventions.
Want to keep up with recent research that’s relevant to aging services? Use the form below to subscribe to our monthly InvestigAge email.
Robin N, Toussaint L, Sinnapah S, Hue O, and Coudevylle GR. Beneficial Influence of Mindfulness Training Promoted by Text Messages on Self-Reported Aerobic Physical Activity in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Aging and Physical activity (2020); 28(3), 406-414.