Walking is one of the most common exercises because it is simple and easy to do—you just walk. Sometimes you have to exercise your feet simply because you have to get to some place to do something or to get what you want. In addition to reaping the benefits of exercise, walking can also protect your brain from aging—if you have the know-how.
Most of us just walk with our feet, but without fully utilizing the exercise of walking. That is to say, because walking is so automatic and mechanical that we no long pay any attention to our walking. In other words, we don’t concentrate when we are walking or doing the exercise of walking. We are so caught up with our destination—such as attending a meeting, or going shopping—that we are completely oblivious of the process of walking. Even if we are using walking as an exercise, we may become caught up in listening to music on the MP3 or talking to someone on the cell phone, such that we pay no attention to the movements of our feet because we have put them on automatic pilot.
If you are walking like the above scenarios, your are not helping to protect your brain from aging. As you age, your brain's cognitive functions also decline, such as you experience more memory lapses and you find it more difficult to learn new things. We are living in an age of speed, which creates a compulsive mind; unfortunately, a compulsive mind ages faster. The explanation is simple: like the body, a mind needs a break. If you overexert your body, it breaks down, and so does a mind that never rests.
The only way to still a mind is by way of concentration: concentrating on something automatic and spontaneous, or something insignificant. The objective of the concentration is to distract the mind from thinking, which we don't stop, except when we are sleeping. Even when we are deep in sleep, the mind continues to work in a passive way to weave out dreams or nightmares. Therefore, it is important to stop your brain from thinking so as to give it a meaningful break. Mental relaxation holds the key to protecting the brain from aging.
How do you concentrate your mind while walking?
Pay attention to your breaths: breathing in and breathing out, as well as the pace or intensity of your breaths. Pay attention to the sensations of your body, such as the feelings of your soles and toes as your shoes touch the ground. Pay attention to the shifting of your body weight as you move from your right foot to the left foot. Just practice paying attention to what is happening to your body as you are walking. Or you can focus your attention on the surrounding, such as the buildings and people around you.
No matter how concentrating or focused your mind is, compulsive or obsessive thoughts may find their way into your mind. You mind may remember what you need to say at the meeting or what you need to buy at the grocery store. They may sip through your consciousness without you inviting them. This, too, is natural. Just notice them, and then re-focus your mind on your breaths, your body movements, or the surrounding. Before long, you have mastered and controlled your mind. You feel very relaxed, and you have de-stressed your mind, thus protecting your brain from aging.
Don't just walk! Walk with consciousness; walk with mindfulness; walk with concentration. Try this out the next time you walk.
Also read my book Younger and Healthier for Longer to get the wisdom of anti-aging.
Copyright © by Stephen Lau