Walking: What is Silent Walking?
Mady Maio said she used to do intense cardio workouts that would inflame her body. So, Maio’s nutritionist recommended that she take 30-minute walks instead.
Maio said her boyfriend then issued a challenge to walk without distraction—no AirPods, podcasts, music, or anything else. So, Maio decided to take him up on his challenge. It was “mayhem” for the first two minutes of her walk, she said. The music and podcasts were replaced with racing thoughts and anxiety. But, slowly, things began to change.
“But something happens after two minutes, where your brain just gets into this flow state, and everything is quiet,” Maio said in her June 12 video that she posted. “And suddenly, you can…hear yourself…After 30 minutes of silent walking, I suddenly had the clarity that I had always been looking for—brain fog lifted.”
Maio said eliminating distractions allowed her brain to have “space” to welcome new ideas.
“Every time I finish a silent walk, I have a new idea for my business, she said. “I’ve untangled a weird situation in my head that I’ve been ruminating over, and I feel like a lot of my current question marks get answered.”
Maio’s video, which has nearly 50,000 likes on TikTok, prompted other people to post their own experiences across social media about walking without distractions. Not surprisingly, Maio’s “silent walking” became the new “hot girl walk”—a viral walking trend that originated on TikTok.
The silent walking movement is having its own “moment” because more people are trying to reconnect with themselves, Dr. Suzanne Hackenmiller, an integrative medicine physician, told TODAY.com.
“Recent studies have found that rates of anxiety and depression have risen dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic, and I believe people are seeking natural, integrative approaches to improve their mental health,” she said.
While people across the country have jumped on this latest walking trend, health and wellness experts say that silent walking is not new.
“Zen Buddhist monks have long practiced silent walking under a different name which they call ‘walking meditation,’” Lalah Delia, author of the mindfulness book Vibrate Higher Daily, told TODAY.com.
Basically, silent walking is about clearing your thoughts and going for a stroll by yourself without any interruptions. Buddhism teaches that this practice can turn exercise into a time of private meditation.
“Silent walking is an easy way to disconnect from all the noise and chaos that is part of our busy world,” Juanita Guerra, a clinical psychologist in New Rochelle, New York, told TODAY.com. “It’s an excellent way to connect to our core selves.”
The Benefits of Silent Walking
Just as walking is good exercise for the body, silent walking is good for the mind. Dr. Raafat W. Girgis, a board-certified psychiatrist in Orange County, California, considers silent walking a “unique meditation” that can promise “numerous benefits in as little as 10 minutes.”
“Participants will learn how to reduce stress in areas of concern—from work and family to finance pressures and possibly even world affairs,” Girgis told Fox News Digital. “Learning how to block out the noise of the world and life in general is the primary goal of silent walking.”
Dr. Girgis went on to explain that external noise causes brain stimulation in the nervous system, which “responds by raising levels of stress hormones (endorphins) in the brain.” Stress, in turn, can raise heart and blood pressure rates.
According to Delia, silent walking “allows the mind to shift into a different mode of rest and focus.” In doing this, people are more likely to notice thoughts that might otherwise get missed, she said.
“I often say that sleep is not the only form of rest,” Delia told TODAY.com. “Practices like silent walking and walking meditation are also forms of rest.”
Dr. Hackenmiller says recent research has found that “walking or exercising in nature may also be an effective intervention to improve sleep.” Dr. Hackenmiller cited another study that found adults who take 90-minute walks in nature report less rumination or dwelling on negative, stressful thoughts.
How to Get Started With Silent Walking
Taking a walk and leaving your earbuds and headphones behind may seem simple, but Guerra cautions that it’s easier said than done.
“Practicing silent walking can prove to be challenging, given that we live in an overstimulating world,” she told TODAY.com.
To get started, experts recommend keeping it simple:
- Make sure you eat, drink, and take care of your bodily needs before walking so that they do not become distractions.
- Find a nearby, but safe, area to walk where there is minimal people or activity around to distract you. Guerra suggests walking somewhere in nature or outdoors. Psychologist Amanda Darnley told TODAY.com that people who live in cities can still do a silent walk because “your environment doesn’t necessarily need to be silent, but you do.”
- As you walk, focus on your feelings, thoughts, or the surrounding nature. This is not the time to make or answer phone calls, walk the dog, or do anything else that would cause a distraction. Delia recommends: “Be mindful of each breath and each step, listen to the sounds of nature around you, feel gratitude for the sun kissing your skin, and use the time for reflection.”
According to Dr. Hackenmiller, people with mobility issues can also experience the benefits of silent walking by finding a reflective “sit spot” outside, “where you sit quietly in nature for at least twenty minutes, simply noticing what you notice.”
In another TikTok video, Life Coach Val Jones says that you’ll probably feel some resistance to the idea of silent walking, “thinking it’s boring or something you could never do.”
Jones said it’s going to be rough for the first two minutes—“your mind is going to be screaming at you.” But after that, Jones urges walkers to “notice what’s happening, notice your mind floating, I guarantee you’re going to feel calmer, more relaxed, more connected, more grounded.”