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The top fitness trend for 2024 is exercising for mental health, according to a recent survey of exercise professionals and business operators by industry association AUSactive.

While many physical exercises benefit peoples’ mental health, some activities – such as yoga, tai chi, massage, sound healing and Pilates – often put mental wellbeing front and centre by building mindfulness, meditation and other mental skills into their practice.

This month we explore what these mental-health-boosting exercises involve so you can deepen your understanding, cater for them at your gym, health club or leisure centre and better support your customers to enjoy healthy minds in healthy bodies.


The origins of yoga are shrouded in history thousands of years old, leading it to be described by some as the ‘mother of all exercise’. These days it is more popular than ever – a National Sports Participation report published by Roy Morgan in 2023 found that it is enjoyed by more than 1.3M people in Australia.

The practice of yoga reduces stress and anxiety, increases mind-body awareness, improves quality of sleep and lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels and provides a host of physical benefits.

While there are many varieties of yoga, most require the same simple conditions: a room with a hard floor (rather than carpet) to keep stable in balancing positions and a degree of quiet to support the elements of meditation that feature at the beginning and end of classes.

Yoga classes often create a sense of community. Creating on-site options for practitioners to get together after class for a tea, coffee or chat provide opportunities for this to grow. If you have a dedicated yoga studio, storage areas for yoga mats and other yoga equipment such as bolsters and blocks are often welcomed by teachers and students alike.

Yoga is much more than a sequence of poses that people hold and move through during a yoga class, it is a complete philosophical approach to life. The classic spiritual text The Bhagavad Gita describes yoga as a journey of the self, to the self, through the self – a voyage of self-discovery that helps people find peace of mind and their purpose in life.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that embodies Taoism – a school of philosophy that emphasises harmony with nature and a balanced approach to life. Flowing through the postures of the Tai Chi sequence with the body, mind and breath synchronised is often described as a ‘moving meditation’, which leads to a feeling of peace and being alive in the present moment.

Tai Chi places great emphasis on correct posture and body alignment, as well as relaxing to actively release unnecessary physical and mental tension. Practicing the art reduces stress and improves the ability to regulate emotions. The process of moving into different positions starts with all the practitioner’s weight being completely on one foot before the other foot steps into position, developing balance and mental resilience.

Like yoga, all that Tai Chi classes require is a room with a hard floor, and a degree of peace and quiet so that practitioners can really tune into their practice. Weapons are sometimes used in Tai Chi practice, so storage would be handy if you have a space reserved for classes.


A newcomer on the holistic-exercise scene, Pilates was developed in the early 20th Century by Joseph Pilates and focuses on breathing, correct form, and mindfulness to strengthen the mind-body connection.

It has grown in popularity and a 2023 Roy Morgan National Sports Participation report found they are now almost 90,000 regular Pilates practitioners in Australia.

Pilates is great for strengthening the core, but aside from the physical benefits its adherents believe it can reduce stress, improve sleep quality, boost concentration and reduce anxiety.

Mat-based Pilates classes only require a hard floor for practitioners to work out on. However, Reformer Pilates uses reformer machines with springs, pulleys and straps to allow practitioners to adjust the level of resistance and target different muscle groups using a greater variety of positions than can be achieved with simply a mat.

Whether you choose to kit out a bespoke Pilates studio with a suite of reformer machines or simply offer Pilates classes using a similar set up to yoga classes, you will be providing another powerful exercise option for your customers to support their mental health.

Sound healing

Another activity gaining popularity is sound healing. This is the practice of harnessing sound to heal the body and the mind by altering brainwave frequencies to induce a deep meditation that reduces stress, promotes deep relaxation and allows the body and mind to restore itself.

Sound healing is enjoyed lying down and instruments are used to bathe the recipient in sound include singing bowls, tuning forks, chimes and gongs. Research is still ongoing to define exactly how sound can be used to promote healing, however it has been recognised since the time of Pythagoras, who promoted the practice.

A sound healing experience is a natural way for people to become absorbed in the present moment, escape from any worries or concerns they may have and tune into a sense of profound relaxation.

With the emphasis on creating a particular soundscape, practitioners prefer to be able to use a space that will not be disturbed by any noise from the external environment.

Massage therapy

Massage is a valuable tool for your customers to enhance their mental health as a complement to exercise or as a stand-alone self-care activity to reduce stress, decrease physical and mental tension and allow people to relax.

There are a wide variety of different types of massage, so you may wish to canvass your customers to find out what type of massage would be most popular at your facility.

If you have small rooms available they could be put to good use for on-site massage therapists to give the peace and privacy ideal for massage sessions. If this is not an option you could bring in massage therapists to host pop-up massage sessions, perhaps after group fitness classes when a massage might be the perfect post-workout treat.

With exercising for mental health top of mind for many Australians and New Zealanders, it might be wise to invest in some of these options at your facility to offer your customers plenty of ways to look after their overall wellbeing.

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