It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy, buy when walking by itself is combined with using an especially beneficial form of breathing – this can be a real winner.
For example, in a new study, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities showed a marked rise in mood and productivity in a group of ordinarily sedentary office workers (most of them middle-aged women) who worked at the university, on the days when they took scheduled lunchtime walks.
But this study looked at just walking with no special breathing ritual attached to it. I’m going to go it one better. I will tell you about a great thing you can do to break up your work day or otherwise give yourself a sense of freedom and expansion during the day. It is called the Breath Walk and it takes only 1 to 5 minutes to do (your choice of which time) and is an immediate energy booster and mood lifter.
The Breath Walk
I use this wonderful “mini” to break up my always-too-long intervals of sitting at my computer. You can use it in dozens of other ways as well – as an inspiration first thing in the morning or a quieting interlude just before you go to bed, or as an amazingly effective way of cutting down on stress – it seems to be infinitely adaptable.
One of the advantages of this simple exercise is that it can be used in a very confined space as well as on the broadest of playing fields, whichever you prefer. It can be used wherever you have enough room to at least walk in a circle, and it can make walking back and forth down a long hall feel like a luxury vacation.
How to Do the Breath Walk
Step 1. Decide how much time you want to spend on this exercise before you start and watch the clock. How much time you will devote to it depends upon your accustomed amounts of exercise, your energy level today, and how much time you can spare from whatever you are doing today.
HINT: Unless you’re accustomed to doing exercise like running or swimming which regularly works out your diaphragm and lungs, I suggest that you start with just a single minute of the Breath Walk and work up gradually to longer times if you want to later,(although you may want to stay with one minute walks repeated more times during the day to break up your sitting time at the computer. You might eventually prefer to use a different ratio of breathing to footsteps.
One great advantage of this exercise is that it can become a lazy person’s (or over-stressed person’s, or too busy person’s) way of reinvigorating their body at intervals during even the most hectic of days.
You don’t need to do the Breath Walk any longer than one minute to begin with to derive some wonderful benefits from it, and if you like you can remain with that amount of time permanently. The Breath Walk can give you a feeling of freedom in the midst of your most harried workday.
HINT: Even people with very efficient lungs will not need more than 5 to 10 minutes maximum of this exercise in order to have it change the tenor of their day afterwards.
Step 2: How to Walk. While you do the Breath Walk, the trick is to breathe out for more steps than you use for breathing in.
If you are accustomed to regular exercise and in reasonably good shape physically, you will probably find it easy to breathe in for 4 steps and then breathe out for 6 steps, and might want to start with this ratio. If so, keep counting your steps, “in-breath– one, two, three, four steps – out breath – one, two, three, four, five, six steps, and repeat this routine for the whole time that you walk.
If you are not yet ready to handle this 4 to 6 ratio of breathing-to-steps (many people will not be at first) try instead breathing in for 3 steps and breathing out for 4 steps, or you can even breathe in for only 2 steps and breathe out for 3 steps . Just be sure to remain comfortable while you do this.
Step 3: Keep your shoulders relaxed for the whole time you do the Breath Walk (you may have to keep reminding yourself to let those shoulders rest!) Keeping your shoulders loose and easy increases the relaxation benefit that this exercise can bring to you and your resulting release of tension.
CARDINAL RULE – Never force yourself when you do the Breath Walk. You do not want to feel in any way uncomfortable or to remain walking for too long. Let this mini-exercise be an invitation for you right during your day. You should feel great after it, so it is wiser to cut the walk short too soon then to do it for too long. Make the whole process easy!
You will be surprised at what Breath Walk can do for you in the very few minutes required for this break. It can clear your lungs of excess carbon dioxide that has accumulated there, causing tension, and cutting down on your efficiency. And it can give you a wonderfully relaxed feeling and a surge of fresh energy when you get back to work. In the long run it will also strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breathing.
And that’s all there is to this simple but highly effective exercise.
I hope you use it often to break up your work periods the way I do!