Although many people don’t count walking workouts as robust exercise, it is — mentally and physically. And getting outdoors for a quick walk is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body. All you need is a pair of walking shoes or the best running shoes and less than 15 minutes to notice the benefits of aerobic exercise.
According to the NHS, “brisk” walking for as little as 10 minutes can build stamina, burn excess calories, boost metabolism and make your heart healthier. It also counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, and its meditative effect can boost your mood. Meditation is hugely positive for mental well-being, so we’ve found a walking meditation you can add to your existing walking workout.
Walking workouts aren’t restricted to the treadmill (find the best treadmills and the best under-desk treadmills for walking here) and can be done out in nature, on your own or with a friend. Whether it’s a five-minute mini-break or an hour stroll outdoors, you can reap the rewards. Find out how below.
Walking as meditation
The benefits of a walking workout are pretty well known, but a walking meditation hones in on walking more mindfully. It’s a chance to focus on your breathing and bring awareness to your body and surroundings, similar to a yoga practice. Moreover, it’s a chance to increase your step count and boost your calorie burn and mood as you move — double win.
Research — like this Stanford study — has shown that walking could boost creativity by twice as much as sitting, and it doesn’t matter where you do it, as the act of walking is enough to get the creative juices flowing. And that’s not all. Studies — like this one published by Harvard — have shown that rhythmically using muscles (like when walking) is called “muscle meditation” and can help clear the mind and reduce stress.
In the absence of “stuff” to do, your mind is free to wander. Muscle meditation studies show that the repetitive nature of walking is brilliant for bringing us into a meditative state. Below is a walking workout you can achieve in just 15 minutes. Research now tells us 7,000 steps a day could be just as beneficial as 10, so if you haven’t got time to spare, why not try a walking meditation on your next walk?
The 15-minute walking workout and meditation was created by John Davisi, a mindfulness-based life coach and speaker, and you can find it on the popular Goodful YouTube channel. John says, “step after step, breath after breath. Let this 15-minute meditation guide you on your walks.” Yes, please.
John will start the walk with a brief to keep you safe, asking you to ensure you can see and hear your surroundings. After all, swerving out of the way of cyclists doesn’t sound too relaxing.
The video will then give you a minute to bring awareness to your surroundings, mental state, and breath. This is a chance to take a deep breath and ground your feet before John kicks off the walk, guiding you the whole way through. Your pace should always be comfortable, and John will ask you to note how your body moves.
Meditation comes in all forms; this walking workout is far from the meditation we picture — sitting in a darkened room with eyes closed and legs crossed, trying to bat away stray thoughts. Meditation is described as the “unity” of mind and body, and studies of Rajyoga meditation have proven to lower blood pressure, slow your heart and breathing rate, and reduce adrenaline. This meditation form encourages a flow state, allowing your thoughts to run freely, just like going for a walk.
Suppose you’re looking for more gentle exercise, recovering from injury, or your walks need a revamp — put your best foot forward with a walking workout that can help you de-stress and boost mood, creativity, and metabolism.
Next up: Here’s what 30 minutes of walking each day can do for your body. Also check out the best walking workouts to add to your routine.
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Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods. When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.