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Walking Meditation for Weight Loss and Better Health
Our culture is obsessed with the personal image; everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with ads promoting cosmetics and weight loss products intended to help us look younger and more beautiful, which translates to “happier.”
What many discover, however, is that no matter how much money we spend on products, they fail to make us either healthier or happier. Some experts believe that we need not purchase any products to enhance our bodies.
They believe that the “trick” to losing weight, improving our appearance, and increasing positive outlook is found inactivity, specifically calming, focusing, or meditative exercise.
When most people hear the word “meditation,” they think of Eastern religious practices such as Transcendental Meditation or exercise such as Yoga which requires effort and a lot of practice to be effective.
While that is not actually the case in most types of formal practice, it’s important to note that any kind of exercise an individual prefers, including a simple walk in the park, can be used, with a few simple thinking exercises, as a meditative exercise.
There is a myriad of formal meditation weight loss programs available from experts such as John Gabriel and others; certainly, the support offered in such programs is helpful, but in reality, all one needs is a good pair of walking shoes and a local park that offers established walking paths or sidewalks.
Meditation can help you lose weight. Tracy Martinez, RN, BSN, CBN, writing for the Obesity Action Coalition, explains that in addition to weight loss and improved muscle tone, any meditative exercise activity helps relieve anxiety, digestive issues, heart disease, and sleep problems as well as improving mental function.
The “trick” is learning to focus the mind during exercise with tools such as repeating a personal gratitude list or mentally directing attention to a repeated affirmation or prayer, or counting breaths or deliberately taking note of nearby objects such as trees or birds in an outdoor setting.
Both exercise and simple meditation require the brain to focus on specific thoughts and activities and simultaneously remove focus from the endless mind chatter, often mostly negative, that most of us allow filling our minds. The more positive the object of the meditation, the better it works to draw the mind away from obsessive thought patterns, eventually replacing the negative thought pattern with another habit: the repeated positive focus. Additionally, the repetition creates an automatic internal rhythm that allows the autonomic nervous system to regulate the activity and reinforce the benefits in connection with the activity.
Liza Barnes, health educator, writing for “A Guide to Walking Meditation,” offers specific guidelines for a number of mental focus exercises to be used specifically with a walking meditation practice. The activity itself promotes weight loss and provides a long list of health benefits.
Research has shown that meditation relieves stress and reduces chronic illness. The practice of focusing your attention to find deep peace lowers blood pressure and helps you manage your daily stress.
When people are stressed, they usually eat more, because they want to find comfort. Stress releases the hormone cortisol. What’s worse, many studies have found that high cortisol levels make people eat more comfort foods—foods that are high in sugar and fat. One in four Americans says that their stress is at level 8, on a scale of 1-10. No wonder why obesity in the US is at unprecedented levels.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
- As you walk, focus on your feet. The moment they touch the ground, clear your mind from all distractions and drive your attention to the very act of walking.
- Break the walking motion into 4 or more parts, and become aware of each one: Raising your foot, lifting it from the ground, touching the ground again, pushing against the ground, and so on. Keep your mind calm. Toss any thoughts that are distractive.
- After you do this for a few minutes, slowly start noticing your surroundings: the trees, the house across the street, the dog, the sky, the birds. Now, notice that you feel much calmer than when you started walking.
While this article is not exhaustive, there are many sources available online to learn more about exercise meditation. It is a simple yet effective means to improving happiness and mental outlook while losing weight and improving other health benefits.
About the Author
Matt of Lodlois is an expert on weight loss programs. He offers Nutrisystem coupons and Weight Watchers promotion codes to her readers so that they pay less on a proven weight management program. Kelly endorses only those weight loss plans that have exercise and meditation at the core of their program. One of them is Nutrisystem, a review of which you can rea this article.