Ever heard of “slow walking”? It may sound too good to be true, but simply walking slowly and consciously is good for your health.
They’re part of a growing Slow Movement, which involves downshifting to invite more meaning, connection, awareness, and wellbeing into our lives. It can apply to any activity.
This ancient form of meditation and centering differs from walking for exercise (for weight loss or maintenance, building muscles, and increasing endurance).
Slow walking involves walking slowly while paying attention to your movements. It’s very simple:
- Start by marking off a distance of about 15 to 20 strides.
- Stand up straight, aligning your shoulders, hips, and ankles, and begin to walk with a relaxed stride.
- Keep your eyes open and focused slightly downward and ahead. Breathe normally.
- If your mind is racing, count your steps or your breaths until it calms down.
- Pay attention to your footfalls, the way your heel lifts off the ground and enables your other foot to fall flat on the ground, the sense of your knees bending and straightening, the way your arms hang and move from the shoulder.
- Walk back and forth for 15 or 20 minutes. Alternatively, move along a path for a few minutes, then turn and walk back.
Some of the benefits
- Many people find walking meditation easier and more natural than meditating or praying while sitting or lying down. There’s less tendency to fall asleep, experience muscle cramps, or feeling the need to scratch.
- You can do it just about anywhere, indoors or outside; you don’t need quiet or natural settings. You don’t need to retreat from the presence of others. You don’t need special gear or clothing.
- It can calm and focus an agitated mind, or invigorate a sluggish one.
- It fosters body sense (embodied self-awareness), “the ability to pay attention to ourselves, to feel our sensations, emotions, and movements…in the present moment, without the mediating influence of judgmental thoughts.” This in turn can bring important health benefits.
Slow movement in the news
- Other forms of slow, intentional movement such as yoga and tai chi have emerged as healing therapies for a wide range of physical and psychological ills. Read more: Slow Movement with Awareness: Better than Exercise? How you move is as important as how much you move.
- Note: Last summer, researchers reported that “slow gait speed” (not caused by a physical problem such as arthritis or a balance problem) is a key predictor of dementia. This differs from meditative walking in that it’s not intentional, but comes from some neurological impairment.