Stress follows you everywhere, even into your workouts, and its voice is powerful. It reminds you how much stuff you have to do and how many things you have been putting off. It drags your body down and makes you feel sluggish, convincing you that your workout is hard. If only you could dump your stress and take a break. Your plate is too loaded, though. Time is precious. However, you can combine a workout for your body with a workout for your mind by mind-body walking.
Henry David Thoreau was aware of mind-body walking more than 100 years ago when he wrote, "I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit."
Mind-body walking is exercise with an internal component. That could mean focusing on breathing while strength training or listening to the rhythm of the water while swimming. Walking just happens to provide one of the greatest vehicles for melding mind with body.
Mind-body walking is something you are probably not used to doing. If you are like most people, your mind never stops doing chores, even when you exercise. You know all too well how high you have loaded your plate, and so while you are exercising, thoughts clang in your head. Mind-body walking means becoming aware of these thoughts and choosing to stop them.
So how do you take a spirited walk? By tuning out the mindless chatter in your head and focusing. Focusing while you walk, though, takes practice. As your mind wanders, you will need to keep pulling it back.
You can set a goal of focusing for 5-10 minutes at a time. You do not have to do this every workout. If you walk with buddies, make a pact to walk in silence for a short stretch.
To experience mind-body walking, try adding these activities to your walks:
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
The benefits of walking. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.startwalkingnow.org/whystart_benefits_walking.jsp. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Research points to more health benefits from walking. Harvard Medical School website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/research-points-to-even-more-health-benefits-of-walking. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Walk this way. Mindful website. Available at: http://www.mindful.org/walk-this-way. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Walking as meditation. Every Body Walk! website. Available at: http://everybodywalk.org/5-ways-exercise-can-help-improve-your-mental-health. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Walking reduces heart disease in people at risk. NHS Choices website. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/12December/Pages/Walking-reduces-heart-disease-in-people-at-risk.aspx. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Walking for good health. Better Health Channel website. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Walking_for_good_health. Updated June 2015. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Walking mindfully. RMIT University website. Available at: http://mams.rmit.edu.au/qdqjdwrpw3wm1.pdf. Accessed September 24, 2015.
What is walking meditation? Wildmind Buddhist Meditation website. Available at: http://www.wildmind.org/walking/overview. Accessed September 24, 2015.
Last reviewed September 24, 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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