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Is a Walk or Meditating Better to Chill Out? Try Both

Most of the time, you’re the queen of killing it. But unfortunately, things can’t always go perfectly your way. When you’re having a stressful moment or full-on rough day, you’ve probably used taking a walk as free therapy to take a breather and feel a bit better. But lately, it seems like meditation is all the rage as the way to take a moment to chill out. The good news? Whether you choose to take a brisk walk or meditate, science is behind both choices.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that just five minutes of aerobic exercise can help you feel less anxious, and multiple studies have found that long walks through nature can help you ruminate on your problems less. As for meditation, a review of almost 50 studies on meditation programs found moderate evidence that the practice can help with anxiety. And for what it’s worth, the American Psychological Association recommends both as healthy, stress-reducing activities.

A new study in the journal Psychological Reports decided to compare the effect of 10 minutes of both options in a group of young adults. They randomly assigned participants to either walk, meditate, walk then meditate, meditate than walk, or just sit. The researchers found that just a 10-minute bout of walking or meditation could bring on positive emotions, and noted that their evidence suggested that those benefits may be greater if you combine the two activities.

While this was just one small study, if you’ve got the time, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try doing both activities next time you want to take a few moments to yourself. If it feels too hard to find the time, consider using mindfulness techniques during your walk: Instead of worrying about what’s bothering you, focus on your steps and breath as you walk, and bring your attention back to them when you find your mind wandering. While the study didn’t necessarily determine that meditating during a walk would produce the same effects, if you’re stressed for time, it might be worth giving it a try.

You can also try taking quick moments throughout the day with a method like blue-dot meditation, or work these self-care habits into your day that take just six seconds each. Whatever you choose, you’ll feel a bit better just taking a moment for you.

Get more great health and wellness stories at BHG.com/Strive.