By now, there’s no doubt you’ve heard all about the amazing benefits a regular meditation practice has to offer. Better sleep, stress relief, increased productivity and an overall sense of peace and gratitude are just a few of the perks you could enjoy from incorporating meditation into your daily routine, but the possibilities are endless.
If you find yourself intimidated by the proposition of sitting cross-legged on the floor in total silence, you’re not alone. Many people find it difficult at first to stay seated and focus on their breathing for 30 seconds, let alone 10 or 15 minutes.
But don’t despair or give up on your meditation journey just yet — there are plenty of different ways to meditate that don’t involve sitting still. You may want to try a walking meditation, which is a form of meditation that’s exactly what it sounds like: a meditation while walking, preferably outdoors in a natural setting, with proven health benefits.
Offering just as many — if not more — health perks as regular seated meditation, walking meditations can also help you destress, improve endurance and reset your mind to focus on empowering thoughts instead of negative, repetitive thought patterns that aren’t serving your best interests.
Walking Meditation Benefits
Although it’s believed to have originated in India sometime around 1500 BCE, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years by many different cultures around the world. As a result, there are countless different methods and interpretations of meditation today.
Whether you fully believe in the power of practicing mindfulness or you’re still skeptical, an ever-increasing number of research studies continue to tell us that meditation can be a potent antidote to stress, depression and excessive rumination. Here are the top benefits of a walking meditation:
Mood boosting. A 2018 study showed that even just one 10-minute walking meditation, or an “acute bout of aerobic exercise and meditation” as the researchers called it, served to improve the mood of young adults and ease some fatigue-related symptoms. Plus, walking itself is a natural mood booster.
Reduced stress. During a four-week program on mindful walking, which included eight sessions of regular walking, mindful walking and a discussion period, study participants reported decreased psychological stress and an overall improvement in their quality of life.
Improved blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular fitness. A study of elderly people living with mild depression found that Buddhist walking meditation, in particular, helped to lower the three-month average of blood glucose levels among study participants as well as blood pressure, arterial stiffness and plasma cortisol concentration, while traditional walking didn’t effect these same changes.
The list of walking meditation benefits goes on, but the best proof is in putting on your running shoes and trying it out for yourself.
How to Start a Walking Meditation Practice
If you’re unsure how to start a regular walking meditation practice, check out the resources below to learn more:
Jack Kornfield walking meditation. Bestselling author and vipassana meditation teacher Jark Kornfield suggests trying his guided walking meditation at home first before venturing out into the real world. He notes that the benefits of walking meditations include helping you develop a greater sense of calm and a more wakeful presence.
How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you’re really looking to dive deep into learning about walking meditations, try reading this pocket-sized book all about walking with awareness, mindfulness and gratitude by Vietnamese monk, peace activist and author Thich Nhat Hanh. (We just don’t suggest walking while you read, because #SafetyFirst).
Make your walking meditation practice a family affair and read A Walk in the Wood: Meditations on Mindfulness with a Bear Named Pooh with your little ones to teach them about the importance of present-moment awareness.
Insight Timer. For even more guided walking meditations, music and discussions, check out the wealth of free resources offered on Insight Timer, a free meditation app for stress, anxiety, sleep and more.