"I loved it — mentally, I loved it."

By Arielle Tschinkel
January 13, 2021
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Credit: Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images

Naomi Campbell has always been one to look for variety in her workouts. You'll find her crushing high-intensity TRX training and boxing in one sweat sesh and low-impact resistance band exercises in the next. But she recently found a passion for a more meditative form of exercise: Tai Chi.

In the latest episode of her weekly YouTube series No Filter with Naomi, the supermodel chatted with Gwyneth Paltrow about all things health and wellness, including what their fitness routines have looked like lately.

Similar to Campbell, the Goop guru said she likes to mix things up in her workout routine. Paltrow said her main goal with fitness these days is to "process things" mentally as she moves, whether that's through yoga, walking, hiking, or even dancing. "[Exericse is] part of my mental and spiritual wellness as much as my physical wellness," she told Campbell. (FYI: Here's why you might not want to do the same workout every day.)

Campbell seems to share a similar philosophy on the connection between mental and physical health. She told Paltrow that she recently got into Tai Chi — a practice that's all about harnessing your spiritual and mental energy — after a 2019 trip to Hangzhou, China.

During the trip, Campbell explained, she couldn't sleep due to "terrible jet lag" and soon found herself waking up early to go to a nearby park where women were practicing Tai Chi. The fashion icon said she decided to join in, even though she'd never tried the martial arts practice before.

"I know I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm gonna just go and move with them," she recalled. "I see these women have such vitality, and they're older women. I wanna get out there and get some of what they've got going."

"I really enjoyed Tai Chi," added Campbell. "I thought it was gonna be easy, but it's so disciplined. You've got to hold everything, it's got to be slow-moving. But I loved it — mentally, I loved it." (Here are some other martial arts practices to add to your fitness routine.)

In case you're not that familiar with Tai Chi, the centuries-old practice is all about connecting your movement to your mind. And while it might not look as intense as your typical HIIT sesh at first glance, you'll quickly see why Campbell found it surprisingly challenging.

In Tai Chi, "you're really paying attention to how the pieces of your body connect efficiently," Peter Wayne, Ph.D., director of the Tree of Life Tai Chi Center and associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, previously told Shape. "In that sense, it's a nice addition to other exercises, because that awareness may prevent injury."

Though there are several different styles of Tai Chi, in a typical U.S.-based class, you'll likely go through long, slow sequences of movement, working on balance and strength as you harness your internal energy and remain focused on your breath.

Research suggests that a regular Tai Chi practice can not only provide psychological benefits — including a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression — but that it's also great for bone health and can even help reduce osteoarthritis pain. (Yoga has some major bone-boosting benefits, too.)

Even if you don't get to practice Tai Chi with a group of strangers in a park anytime soon, both Campbell and Paltrow are all about treading unfamiliar territory when it comes to fitness — which is an especially important mindset to have in an era of working out in your living room.

"The most important lesson there is just to know yourself and know what you're capable of and not," said Paltrow. "If you wanna do different things, you should just explore whatever, as long as you're feeling like you're doing something that's working for you."

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