The Power of Mindful Walking

For Individuals
May 23, 2024
Mindfully walk to improve mental health.

Walking has been described as a practically perfect exercise. It’s convenient, low-cost, low-risk, and provides significant benefits to your physical health, including:

  • Stronger muscles
  • Increased metabolism
  • Improved cardiovascular health

But it can also be transformative for your mental health, resulting in:

  • Reduced stress and boosted mood
  • Improved overall quality of life and well-being

Physical activity, such as walking, is associated with improvements in mood and reduced risk of depression and anxiety. In fact, some evidence shows moderate intensity exercise has a greater effect on mood compared to a vigorous effort. So even a stroll at a comfortable pace is beneficial.

Keep reading to learn how to maximize these mental health benefits with mindfulness.

What is mindful walking?

Practicing mindfulness while walking can further enhance its mood benefits. Mindfulness simply means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, bodily sensations, and environment through a gentle and nurturing lens.

According to the American Psychological Association and recent research, mindfulness has the following benefits:

  • Reduced rumination
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced emotional reactivity
  • Improved working memory
  • Improved focus
  • Improved cognitive flexibility

Think of mindful walking as a way to get the mood-boosting benefits of moderate intensity exercise, plus the benefits of mindfulness… all at once!

To try it, find an outdoor route—perhaps in a park—where you’ll be exposed to a range of sensory experiences: natural sounds, visuals, smells, and tactile stimulation like the wind and the warmth of the sun. Then, do the following:

  • If you typically listen to music while walking, try leaving the headphones at home so you can truly observe the world around you.
  • Walk slowly and steadily.
  • Observe your bodily sensations—such as your breath, your footsteps, and your moment-to-moment experiences—without getting lost in your mind.
  • Let go of all the thoughts you’re holding onto from the stresses of the day.
  • If your mind wanders, try to return your focus to the environment—notice the smells, sights, sounds, and temperature as you walk.

We hope you take these steps towards a healthier and happier you, and experience the positive impact of mindful walking on your well-being.

Interested in how Sword Health can help you develop healthy habits, move more, avoid injuries, and feel better? Check if you're eligible to become a Sword member through your employer or health plan.

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