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Peloton instructor Kirra Michel going on a walking meditation outdoors. She's smiling and wearing a pink Peloton sports bra, a black zip-up hoodie, and black jeans.

Walking Meditations Are an Easy, Effective Way to Reduce Stress—Here's How to Get Started

Step into a calmer state of mind (literally).

By Michele RossOctober 10, 2023

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A bit of mindfulness can go a long way to keep you calm, grounded, and in good health—and mindful movement can advance those outcomes even further. For those seeking a respite from their always-at-the-ready, fast-paced lifestyles—or for anyone searching for simple ways to prioritize self-care—a walking meditation could be exactly what you need. 

Walking meditations provide a practical yet effective way to carve out time for yourself and feel more present, which can help you feel like you’re thriving—and not merely surviving—on a daily basis. As a result, you’ll serve yourself (as well as others around you) better by slowing things down and honoring the needs of your mind and body.

Whether you’re new to meditation or a longtime practitioner, you can absolutely benefit from a walking meditation practice. Keep reading to discover all the benefits of walking meditations, plus find pro tips on how to put some mindful pep in your step.

Can You Meditate While Walking?

It’s totally possible to meditate while walking… as well as while running, during a yoga class, and even from the comfort of your own bed. Heck, you can even meditate while doing the dishes or taking out the trash. So long as you stay present (i.e., aware of your own senses and conscious of your surroundings, without judgment), you’re being mindful, which is a core component of any type of meditation. Better yet, meditating while walking is approachable—and beneficial—for your mind and body alike.

What Is Walking Meditation?

A walking meditation is exactly what it sounds like: putting one foot in front of the other while maintaining a meditative state. However, it differs in scope from a seated or still meditation, as well as from a typical leisurely stroll.

“Walking meditations are great ways to become present and grounded whilst in motion,” says Peloton instructor Kirra Michel. It might be easier to purposefully pay attention to your breath and sensations while seated in a quiet room, but walking while meditating involves a variety of challenges—or rather, opportunities—to be mindful. (Conversely, some people may find it harder to commit to a seated or reclined meditation position, whether on account of discomfort or restlessness.

What’s more, incorporating mindfulness into your movements can help you become more calm and aware—not only of yourself but also of your surroundings. Even if you enjoy walking for leisure, walking meditations take things a step further (literally) by honing in on sensations within and around you that usually go unnoticed. 

“On a typical leisure walk, your mind will wander all over the place, lost in autopilot,” Kirra explains, “whereas during a walking meditation, you will be guided back to what is occurring in the present moment over and over again.” In short, walking meditations swap rumination and rabbit holes for presence and connection as you gently move your body.

Again, walking meditations can be a (welcome) challenge for most who are just getting started with the practice. “If you are new to practicing meditation and sitting feels impossible, give walking meditation a try,” Kirra suggests. “Or if you meditate frequently, try adding walking meditations to see if you can stay present in motion.”

Benefits of Walking Meditations

If you’re feeling bogged down by the demands of everyday life and are looking for ways to simplify and self-soothe, you’re bound to find that walking meditations are worth your while. After all, you get a two-for-one deal, reaping the benefits of walking and the benefits of meditating one stride at a time.

Here are a few benefits that come with walking meditations:

Stress Reduction

Unfortunately, stress is becoming the norm for a growing number of people both young and old, in the US and globally. “Walking meditations can assist in reducing stress [since] the combination of mindfulness and movement both help with stress reduction,” Kirra explains.

For context, in a December 2022 poll of 2,212 adults by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 37 percent of respondents rated their mental health as fair or poor, which was up from 31 percent the year prior. The two most popular resolutions they made in the quest to prioritize mental health were none other than exercising more (65 percent) and meditating (45 percent). Take this as a friendly reminder that it’s never too late to revisit both those goals at once with the help of walking meditations.

Mood and Mental Health Improvements

Walking meditations not only help you destress, but they can also put you in a better mood overall. A 2018 study of 66 young adults investigated the effects of either brisk walking, meditating, or sitting still (without mindful engagement) for 10 minutes. Participants in the first two groups both benefited from improvements in their moods, with markers including scores for depression, hostility, and fatigue. Pair the two together and you’re bound to have a winning combination.

“When we move our bodies, endorphins (a feel-good brain chemical) are produced,” Kirra adds. “Add the fact that movement is essential to health and longevity for our bodies, and so many of us struggle to get the appropriate number of steps per day due to sedentary lifestyles.”

Moreover, consistent meditation on its own—even in brief yet daily stints—has been shown to:

  • Decrease bad moods

  • Decrease anxiety

  • Improve emotion regulation

This same research also noted that meditation can enhance attention, working memory, and recognition memory. In other words, a consistent mindfulness practice can help you stay sharp by improving focus and cognition as well.

Exposure to Nature

“If you have the option to do your walking meditation outdoors, getting outside is already a great step towards health,” Kirra shares. “It allows us to soak in some vitamin D, connect to nature, and breathe in fresh air.”

Spending enough time outdoors can yield a host of benefits, including but not limited to:

In short, a walking meditation in the great outdoors can help you feel and do good.

How to Meditate While Walking

You can always practice a DIY walking meditation, but it can help to rely on guided walking meditations to facilitate the experience as you get started. But if you want some helpful how-tos to kick things off, here are Kirra’s step-by-step walking meditation instructions:

1. Decide Where to Go

“A walking meditation can be done anywhere that’s safe to walk, preferably unobstructed, but work with what you have available to you,” she advises. “That might be somewhere in the middle of nature, a space inside, or even the concrete jungle.”

2. Tie Your Laces Tightly if You’re Wearing Shoes

If you’re able to go barefoot—perhaps in a park, on the beach, or even in your own backyard—even better. You’ll enjoy the additional benefits of earthing (i.e., making direct physical contact with the Earth’s surface), ranging from improvements in sleep quality to pain management. But if you’re practicing walking meditation with shoes on, make sure your shoes are tied well so you don’t need to worry about stopping to fix them.

3. Tune in to Your Breath and Body

Take a few deep, grounding breaths as you soften your shoulders. Keep your neck relaxed, head up, and eyes open.

4. Start Walking

Walk naturally, allowing your arms to swing at your sides. Release any tension that arises in your body as you’re walking.

5. Maintain Mindfulness

Stay present and allow your senses to heighten. Notice subtleties you may often overlook when walking. This can include the evenness of your inhales and exhales, the pace of your strides, the feel of the wind on your skin, and the support of the ground beneath you.

If you decide to listen to a guided walking meditation, you can follow the instructor’s cues to help stay in touch with your other senses and the world around you. On the Peloton App, “the instructor will let you know when the meditation has hit the mid-mark in the case you’d like to turn around and walk back to your starting location,” Kirra adds.

Tips for Maintaining Mindfulness While Walking

By now, you’re equipped with the framework of walking meditation and the many benefits of the practice. Yet distractions and interferences are likely to arise, which might derail your flow as you begin. To set yourself up for success with walking meditations—plus prevent and overcome any hiccups with ease—check out Kirra’s quick tips and insights:

Slow Down Your Strides

“I personally recommend walking slower than your typical pace, as the destination and speed are not the goal,” Kirra says. That said, she advises sticking to a pace that you’re comfortable with. One person’s low and slow might be someone else’s moderate intensity. All the while, keep safety considerations in mind, especially if other people are hustling and bustling (or driving or biking) around you.

Be Consistent

There’s no specific threshold you need to hit in your practice, whether that’s in terms of how long your walking meditation is (time or distance) or how often you do it. The same goes for what time of day you practice. While an earlier walking meditation might help you start your day right, an evening mindfulness walk can also help you wind down as part of your pre-Zzzs evening routine.

“You can do walking meditations as frequently as you like,” she shares, “though the more you do, the faster you’ll notice the benefits of being calm and grounded throughout your day.” However, as is the case with pretty much all healthy habits, consistency is key above all.

Lean Into Any Challenges

If someone bumps into you as you’re finding your flow—or if the sights and sounds of your environment detract from your focus at large—don’t get discouraged. Instead, Kirra suggests that you invite these unique challenges into your practice: “Rather than allowing it to be a distraction, can you observe the sound in meditation, perhaps even using it as a focal point? Is it close, or far away? Can you listen to it as it trails off into the distance? Can you pinpoint the moment it turns from a distant sound to silence again?”

Reframe any distractions or unintentional diversions as welcome additions to your walking meditation. You’ll stand to benefit from accepting and adapting to them. “Use what is occurring around you as part of the mediation, notice judgments that arise, and try relating to them in a different way,” Kirra advises.

How to Incorporate Walking Meditation Into Your Daily Life

To actually stick to and benefit from walking meditations, find ways to seamlessly integrate them into your daily life. Even if you’re crunched for time, fitting in a walking meditation is easier than you might think.

Some ideas to build walking meditations into your schedule include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Dedicating set days (and blocking times on your calendar) to do a walking meditation during your coffee or lunch break

  • Tuning into a guided walking meditation as you go home from work or take the dog out

  • Asking your partner to watch the kids as you step out for a morning mindfulness walk

  • Incorporating walking meditations into your weekend self-care routine

If you have the Peloton App, you can also schedule walking meditation classes for the future or add them to your customized stack of classes, making it extra simple to plan ahead.

The Takeaway

At first glance, a walking meditation might not seem like a game-changing addition to your fitness regimen… or even a feasible activity to add to your ever-growing list of priorities. But if you’re set on reducing stress, boosting your mood, and improving markers of well-being across the board, this two-in-one wellness practice is a safe bet to (literally) get your meditation game in motion. After all, you deserve calmness and tranquility; a walking meditation can offer exactly that for your mind and body, so long as you take the first step.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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