Photo by Federico Stevani from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Regular physical exercise improves our health more than any other single factor, aside from the decision not to smoke. Exercise also has a profound impact on brain functioning.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper--the father of aerobics--and his son Dr. Tyler Cooper write in their book, Start Strong Finish Strong: Prescriptions for a Lifetime of Great Heath, that people in their forties who walk briskly for three hours a week can “stop the shrinkage of brain areas that are related to memory and higher cognition.”
Have you set an exercise goal for 2011? Enjoy the Savor inMoving Plan, a brief reflection and goal setting worksheet that can help you develop fitness resolutions and expand upon existing goals.
For many of us, devoting time to exercise is difficult, and when our schedules fill up, mindful movement is the first thing to go. Remember, you don’t need to have a block of 2 hours for the gym, a hike or yoga. When we walk mindfully, every step is healing.
How to sneak mindful walking into our everyday routine:
In terms of the pace, we can start by taking 2-3 steps for our in breath, and 2-3 steps for our out breath. We can adjust the pace by increasing or decreasing the steps for each in or out breath.
Starting with a slower rhythm helps us to balance. Experiment with the speed that you are comfortable with. Feel your feet touching the ground firmly as if they are making a seal or imprint with the earth.
Throughout the day, we can walk mindfully
• as we get up from our desk to go to the bath room
• as we walk to the cafeteria at work
• as we go from meeting to meeting
• as we walk from our bedroom to the kitchen
• as we walk the stairways (this has the dual benefit of burning more calories and practicing mindfulness)
• as we walk to the subway
• as we walk in the snow
• as we walk on the streets
When we feel anxious or stressed, walking mindfully can bring us relief. As we exhale, we can visualize our negative energies of anxiety, stress, or fear being released through the soles of our feet to the ground. As we inhale, we absorb the energy of solidity from mother earth.
Walking like this, we can taste the solidity, peace and freedom resulting from mindful walking throughout the day. We can practice mindfulness wherever we are.
Walking like this will help strengthen our mindfulness energy to become stronger and stronger in us.
With practice, we can integrate mindfulness to our routine brisk walking or jogging, enabling us to cultivate mindfulness while maintaining our health - burning more calories and strengthening our heart and muscles. Exercise can also help us lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and some types of cancer, high blood pressure as well as improve sleep and boost mood.
For more information about the health benefits of exercise, a specific breakdown of how much exercise your body requires and mindful movement recommendations see Savor pages 148-154. Related exercise blogs:
How to Stick to Your Exercise Plan
Walking Inspiration: Trails Near You
Mindful Movement: Lose weight and reduce stress by incorporating exercise in to your daily routine.