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Doing This For 10 Minutes Could Reduce Anxiety

New research finds meditation and walking have significant benefits for anxiety.

Two recent studies suggest that as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking and meditation can improve your mood. Meditation may even have some advantages over walking to reduce anxiety.

One study published in the Health Promotion Perspectives examined the effects of walking and meditation on the moods of young adults, who had an average age of 21. The study compared the effects of ten minutes of brisk walking, meditation, and sitting. The study measured three areas of mood: depression/dejection, anger/hostility, and fatigue/inertia. Ten minutes of meditation lowered overall scores of depression, anger, and fatigue significantly. Walking and meditation lowered scores for fatigue and inertia.

Another study, in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found that meditation is a key component. Researchers measured anxiety in young adults who had an average age of 21 years old and found that 10 minutes of meditation alone as well as walking before or after meditation reduced anxiety significantly. Walking without meditation did not change anxiety, however.

Research suggests that if one is feeling anxious or down, brisk walking combined with meditation could be useful. As little as 10 minutes can make a real difference in your mood and anxiety. For people new to the practice, meditation can sound intimidating. Many have the idea that meditation means that one must "empty" one's mind or make it "blank"—or that you need to be in a bare room sitting on a cushion in order to do it. Neither are requirements to starting your meditation practice. It is normal to have distracting thoughts when you begin to meditate. The key is to allow yourself to notice them, let them go, or redirect your attention gently to a focal point, such as your breath in a focused awareness meditation like breath awareness.

Many beginners in meditation find it useful to start with guided meditations and visualizations, which include verbal guides. There are several different mindfulness apps available; many are discussed in my post on how to find the right mindfulness app. (We also include a dozen simple meditation methods in our book, The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga.)

Marlynn Wei, MD © 2018