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Ever heard of "slow walking"? It may sound too good to be true, but simply walking slowly and consciously is good for your health. Not only does it burn a surprising number of calories and decrease joint stress, but also it adds an element of meditation and mental well-being to our lives.
You’ve probably heard about Slow Food. The whole slow movement is about downshifting to invite more meaning, connection, and calmness to our everyday lives. It can apply to any activity.
Slow walking as a form of meditation and centering differs from walking for exercise; it's not a cardio exercise meant to raise your heart rate. However, there are indeed physical benefits. Surprisingly, walking slowly 2 miles per hour burns more calories than fast walking 3 to 4 miles per hour. Why? When you walk slowly, you lose the efficiency of already being in motion towards your next step. This makes your muscles work a little harder with each step.
In addition, slow walking is easier on the joints, reducing the loads on the knee joints by 25 percent. This is especially important if someone starts out obese or isn't fit, reducing the risk of injury.
How to Slow Walk
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 this way for 15 or 20 minutes. You can move along a path for a few minutes, then turn and walk back. Or walk back and forth.
More Benefits to Slow Walking
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.
Another way to improve your walking is to use fitness poles! This also helps take pressure off of the knees and joints, burns more calories, and also raises your heart rate into the moderate-intensity zone.