Researchers have found that adding meditation before or after a brief walk, for 10 minutes each, significantly reduces anxiety in university students. The new randomized control trial published in the American Journal of Health Promotion examined the effects of meditation alone or meditation before or after a 10-minute walk on a group of 110 university students, who were on average 21.4 years old.
Ten minutes of meditation combined with or without a brief, 10-minute walk reduced levels of anxiety, as measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory questionnaire. In contrast, a 10-minute walk by itself (or doing neither activity, as with the control group) did not result in significant changes in their anxiety. These results suggest that doing meditation before or after aerobic exercise can help reduce anxiety levels more than just physical exercise alone.
This study continues to add to the growing body of research supporting the benefits of meditation for anxiety disorders. If you are pressed for time to do both meditation and physical exercise, you can try another form of meditation, which combines meditation during walking (known as mindful walking or walking meditation). You can try this walking meditation on your way to work, walking up stairs, or even for a brief 10-minute walk on your lunch break. There are many variations on the walking meditation.
Walking Meditation Instructions (5-10 minutes)
1. Bring your hands to a relaxed position, however feels best for you. Take a few relaxed breaths before you begin, and notice the sensation of both feet on the ground.
2. Breathe in a relaxed and natural manner.
3. Start to walk at a slower, unhurried pace.
4. Notice the sensation of your feet:
5. Continue to pay attention to the sensation of each step, and feel the weight in both of your feet transfer or shift as you continue to walk.
6. Notice how the rest of your body feels as it moves: your back, legs, arms, shoulders, chest, and neck.
It's normal to be distracted during your walking meditation, but just gently bring your mind back to the sensation in your feet. Beginners can start with five to ten minutes, but you have the option to do it for longer as well.