Regular walking is one of the best exercises for our overall health. It just is. Going for a 30-minute walk each day can have a truly positive impact on our wellbeing due to the multitude of health benefits. But what if you can turn your regular walks into something more, something even more beneficial? Something that can heal both the body and the mind. Enter meditative walking.
What Are Meditation Walks?
So what is this exactly, what differentiates it from a regular walk?
When you go for a meditation walk you simply become aware of every step and every breath you take. You become aware of your body and of everything that surrounds you. You live in the moment and focus on exploring all your senses. This is something we, many times, forget to do during our normal walks. We allow our thoughts and daily worries to take control, and this prevents us from connecting with our senses and our surroundings.
- Where to do it? You can go for a mindful walk basically anywhere, but it’s advisable to avoid distractions. This means that, at least in the beginning, you should try to avoid heavily-trafficked and populated streets. You can go for a stroll on the sidewalk in a peaceful neighborhood, in the park, in the forest or on the beach.
- For how long? A meditation walking session should normally last for at least 15 minutes. With the passage of time, you can increase the length of your sessions.
- At what pace? One of the characteristics of this type of walking is the slower pace in comparison to walking for fitness or weight loss. There isn’t a predefined speed, the key is to walk slowly, to take your time and pay attention to your surroundings.
The Benefits of Mindful Walking
Taken separately, mindfulness and walking can generate a multitude of physical and mental benefits. So combining the two into a single activity can help us improve our overall health and wellbeing even more. Here’s how:
Effectively Manage Diabetes
According to a study published in the Complementary Therapies in Medicine medical journal, Buddhist walking meditation exercises can be truly beneficial to people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, at the end of the 12-week program scientists concluded that this type of walking can turn out to be even more beneficial in comparison to traditional walking.
Both type of exercises were able to decrease the blood sugar levels and improve the cardiovascular fitness in patients with type 2 diabetes. But patients who joined the walking meditation program experienced additional benefits which regular walkers didn’t. These included decreased HbA1c and blood pressure, as well as improved arterial stiffness.
Improve Balance and Coordination
Walking meditation sessions can have a positive influence on our body balance. A recent study suggests that meditative walking can improve balance performance and coordination among elderly women. According to researchers, walking meditations allow people to maintain focus on their leg and ankle movements, while walking at a slower pace.
Reduce Stress Level
Stress is without a doubt one of our biggest enemies in the 21st century. Luckily there are numerous ways we can fight back. Mindful walking is one of them. According to research, engaging in walking meditation exercise can lead to a decrease in our blood cortisol level, which is our body’s primary stress hormone.
Ease Depression Symptoms
Walking in general can help us better cope with depression. Practicing mindful walking can enhance the mental health benefits. According to a research, elderly participants who practiced Buddhist-based walking meditation 3 times a week for 12 weeks showed a significant reduction in depression symptoms. At the same time, they experienced an increase in muscle strength, flexibility, agility and cardiorespiratory endurance.
Another benefit of meditative walking is the fact that it can help you reduce anxiety. And this too is scientifically proven. A study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, concluded that mixing walking with meditation is an efficient way of attenuating anxiety among young adults. The findings suggest that combining the two activities can generate better mental health results than brisk walking.
Tip: Track your Walks
If you want to make the most of your meditation walks, it’s advisable to start keeping track of your activity.
Tracking can help you understand how active you actually are instead of guessing. It allows you to measure your progress, identify problems and make adjustments. It can help you build self-confidence and find the necessary motivation to push forward to reach your goal. It gives you the opportunity to celebrate and take delight in your achievements.
In order to track your fitness progress you don’t need to purchase an additional gadget. It’s enough to install a pedometer app, like our own ActivityTracker, and you’re all set. This way, with just a few taps, you’ll be able to set your own goals and adjust them along the way and monitor a series of relevant fitness metrics, like the steps taken, the distance covered, calories burned or active time.