By the end of this article, you are going to be doing mindfulness meditation while running every single day. Why? Because science has found some seriously stunning benefits of meditating while running.
We already know from sports psychology that there are amazing benefits of meditation for athletes.
And it turns out that running while meditating is perhaps the best thing for your mental health.
What Science Says About Meditation While Running
Scientists recently researched the effect that meditating while running has on depression. Of course, we already know that we can use meditation to stop depression.
But running and meditating at the same time is even more powerful.
Practising meditation while running boosts your levels of happiness and, it turns out, cures depression arguably better than medication does.
Tracey Shors is the professor of exercise at Rutgers. She says, “Scientists have known that both [running and meditation] alone can help with depression. This new study shows that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”
Tracey and her team wanted to test the effects of meditating while running. They took fifty-two participants, twenty-two of whom were suffering from depression. Over the course of 8 weeks, those fifty-two people meditated for 40 minutes and did 30 minutes of exercise. The researchers then tested the results.
Tracey states that the twenty-two people with depression experienced significant improvements after the eight weeks. They had a 40 percent reduction in symptoms. The participants who were already mentally healthy also showed major improvements in their concentration and happiness. [Read more about this fascinating discovery here. ]
Strengthens the brain
Brandon Alderman is the lead author of the study. He believes that meditation and running together might strengthen neural mechanisms in the brain.
“We know from animal studies that effortful learning, such as is involved in learning how to meditate, encourages new neurons to mature in the hippocampus,” says Alderman.
This means that practising meditation while running increases the number of new brain cells in the volunteer’s hippocampus and helps keep neurons alive and healthy.
How to Do Mindfulness Meditation While Running
Take a look at my guide to walking meditation because practising meditation while running is very similar.
To do meditation while running, follow these steps:
- Before you start to run take twenty mindful breaths
- Do your warm-up stretches like you’d do tai chi (mindfully moving in slow ways)
- Start running. Bring your focus to your legs.
- Feel the movement in your legs and let your consciousness sit on that sense of movement.
- You will find it helpful to count breaths while running (one count = both a left and a right pace).
- You can switch to an open meditation by meditating on the environment while you run. if you would like to do this, simply focus on your five senses.
- Feel free to sprint and meditate on the energy. Obviously, stop if you get out of breath.
- If you get tired, slow down and meditate on your breath while jogging lightly (I do this with my eyes closed personally, but for safety reasons, you might want to keep them open or hold your gaze at 45 degrees as Zen monks do in Zazen meditation).
- I like to put my hands in jnana mudra (the basic meditation hand gesture with your thumb touching your first finger and the other fingers held out straight)
- When you finish running, meditate on the sensation of energy in your body.
- If you enjoy movement meditations like this, you might like to try Dance Meditation Technique too!