Taking a walk may be a good opportunity to mentally review your to-do list, but mindful movement may help boost your well-being by lowering stress and anxiety, a new study suggests.
The study, published in the journal Psychology of Sports and Exercise, found that while participants reported being less stressed while they were on their feet and moving, they received greater benefits when they were being more mindful.
“It can be difficult to ask people to spend a lot of time doing moderate or vigorous activity by going to the gym or out for a run, especially if they feel stressed,” said lead author Chih-Hsiang “Jason” Yang from the University of Southern California in the US.
“But if they don’t need to change their everyday behaviour, they can instead try to change their state of mind by becoming more mindful and can probably see this beneficial effect,” Yang added.
Mindful movement is an exercise that involves mental focus, to train your body to move optimally through both athletic activities and everyday life.
For the study, the researchers examined 158 students. For two weeks, a special mobile phone app randomly prompted the participants eight times a day to answer questions about their current activity and states of mind.
The prompts included questions about where the participant was, if they were moving, and if they were stressed or anxious, as well as questions designed to assess mindfulness.
After analysing the data, the researchers found that when participants were more mindful or active than usual, they showed reduced negative affect.
They also found a possible synergistic effect when people were both mindful and active.
“Being more active in a given moment is already going to reduce negative affect, baut by also being more mindful than usual at the same time, you can see an amplified affect” Yang noted.