By Juliet Kaska
Walking is an easy, stress-free exercise, which clears your mind, strengthens your heart, and tones your muscles. Movement of all types is my go-to stress reliever. Walking is the most accessible, no-nonsense form of movement.
Walking, like all exercise, is good for overall health and wellbeing. It is also good for muscle tone, cardiovascular strength, and joint health. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which is the type of exercise that improves the strength and stability of our bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Walking burns calories– aiding in weight loss.
In addition to these benefits, walking supports our stress management and elevates our mood by producing endorphins and dopamine. Walking also helps to reduce anxiety. The amygdala is the area of the brain that controls anxiety. The amygdala can only do one task at a time. Therefore, when you have focused on your walk, the things you have been anxious about slip away from your mind.
To increase the anxiety-relieving benefits of walking, change where and/or how you are walking regularly. If you are always taking the same neighborhood walk, the amygdala part of your brain doesn’t need to focus on that single task because it has become a habit. Changing your route or location will keep your amygdala engaged in that new environment.
Another way to keep that focus is by adding in and changing up meditative exercises to do while you are walking. Below are options of different places and meditations you can do to keep your amygdala engaged in anxiety-lowering activities and stop worrying, fretting, and ruminating.
All of the options detailed here are examples of mindful walking. Mindfulness-based exercises help you focus on being intensely aware of your sensing and feeling in the immediate moment. This helps to relax the body and mind and helps to reduce stress. You don’t have to choose one of these exercises; you can continue to use all of them for as long as you like.
- Walk for 5-minutes, focusing on your natural stride.
- Change nothing; only observe yourself and your movements.
- For the next 5-minutes, change one aspect of your gait, such as taking longer strides.
- Change a part of your movement every 2- 5 minutes for the duration of your walk.
- Suggestions: Arm swing, heel strike, toe walking, hip swing, open and close hands, rotate your head, shorten stride, lengthen stride.
- Remove your shoes.
- Stand still with your eyes closed or open, your choice.
- Feel the sand beneath your feet.
- Scrunch your toes up, then spread them in the sand allowing the grains to get between each toe.
- Listen to the waves and other sounds around you.
- Begin to walk (eyes open now).
- Walk in a gentle zig-zag, going from the dry sand to the watery and back again.
- Be aware of the different sensations you experience in your feet as you move between these different textures.
Nature Walk- 5 sense
- Choose a location in nature, such as a hiking path, nature walk, a park, a field, or the beach. Allow all of your senses to awaken.
- Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Allow your senses to run wild, taking in everything.
- See colors. Notice each color’s various shades, not just green and brown.
- Listen to the layers of sound around you. What sounds are coming from you? What sounds are coming from nature? Can you hear further than what is directly around you?
- Taste the air around you. You cannot taste the air, and please don’t try eating the plants you see. But many people have a sensation of tasting air when they breathe through their mouth. Try this to see if your mouth picks up on the difference between air here in nature versus near your home.
- Smell Mother Nature. Take deep breaths through the nose allowing the ever-changing scents of nature to fill you.
- Touch, be touched. First, be present with how the air feels on your skin. Next, feel the sensation of your clothing touching you. Take a leaf and roll it with your fingers. Stop and run your hand over the tree bark.
- Tune out the city by pulling your awareness inward.
- Allow the noise and chaos of the city streets to fall away.
- Allow the natural flow of the bust city street to carry you.
- Focus on your breath, in through the nose, out through the mouth.
- Focus on your chest lifting and falling with each cycle of breath.
- Start walking.
- Take 5 rounds of deep full breaths in, followed by big exhales out.
- Continue walking and begin to control your breath by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
- Once you have controlled breathing, take 5 counts to inhale through the nose, followed by 5 counts to exhale through the mouth.
- Continue this style of meditative breathing for the duration of your walk.
Remember it is important to have a pair of shoes that you can depend on as you embark on your mindful walking. Check out the great active styles from Vionic that will help give you the support you need, but make you feel comfortable at the same time!
About the Author:
Juliet Kaska is one of the country’s leading celebrity trainers and health + wellness experts. In 2005, she opened Emerson Hall Fitness (EHF) in West Hollywood, CA, which quickly became the most sought-after boutique gym in the Los Angeles area. She then launched her brand JK Zen Fitness, with partnership locations throughout LA, and in 2010 opened the JK Fitness Pilates Studio. Juliet recently partnered with Vionic to create the Move for You program, a three-part series of 7 minute videos that get you moving with power and comfort. In addition to her celebrity clientele, Juliet is known for creating Hollywood’s favorite workout programs: The Bombshell Bride, Picture Perfect, The Red Carpet Workout, The Executive’s Workout and her most popular, Pilates Burn, a high-intensity workout combining Pilates reformer equipment, traditional strength training techniques and the flow of yoga. Juliet has consulted for and appeared on numerous programs such as Good Morning America, Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight. Numerous publications including Vogue, Shape, Los Angeles Magazine, People, Oxygen, Fitness Magazine, Glamour and Health Magazine have also featured her as a fitness expert. Juliet is trained and certified in multiple disciplines, making her workout programs both diverse and innovative. She is certified as a Second Generation Master Pilates Teacher and has received dual certification as a personal trainer from the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. In addition, yoga guru Dharma Mittra trained her as a yoga teacher. Juliet brings a vibrant voice and unique perspective to the Vionic Innovation Lab.