If you’ve ever felt a sense of deep calm and connection to the present moment while running, you may have already practiced running meditation.

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Mindful running can offer the benefits of both exercising and meditation. (Westend61/Getty Images)

Just like it sounds, running meditation is when you combine a meditation practice with running.

You might think meditation is just about sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed while remaining quiet. In fact, meditation can be about this and is often practiced in a quiet place without distractions.

But you can also practice moving meditation, and running can give you that opportunity. The rhythmic nature of running may allow you to quiet your mind and fully connect to the present while leaving your worries behind.

Running meditation can offer you many benefits. Plus, there are specific ways to do it in order to get more out of it.

Running meditation is meditation in action. It’s about connecting with your body, quieting your mind, and letting yourself genuinely live in the moment while you exercise.

Running meditation may be a great option if you have a busy lifestyle and feel you don’t have the time to sit down and observe your thoughts every morning.

Instead of worrying about a project at work or other to-do list tasks while you run, you may try to focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body.

Researchers have been studying the benefits of combining meditation and exercise for years. Meditating while practicing some form of physical activity can help you:

  • reduce stress and anxiety, per research from 2009 and 2019, respectively
  • increase pain tolerance, according to a 2018 research review
  • improve performance and flow state, based on studies from 2020 and 2018
  • improve sleep, according to a 2019 research review
  • reduce the chance of injuries, based on 2017 research
  • improve mood and well-being, per the 2018 research review and the 2017 research mentioned above

Nearly everyone, from recreational runners to elite athletes, can benefit from adding meditation to their routines.

Running meditation may be especially helpful if you live with:

While meditation and running are each great for managing symptoms of depression, they’re even more effective when combined.

Meditation works by changing the way the brain responds to stressful situations. It makes you less reactive and better able to control unwanted or unpleasant emotions and thoughts.

It’s important to remember, though, that running meditation may not be the best choice for some people. For example, if you prefer to run on busy streets, you’ll probably need to keep your eyes and ears open. This can make it difficult to focus on your body and thoughts without jeopardizing your safety.

You may also want to discuss mindful running with your health team to decide whether this is the best practice for you.

Meditation refers to focusing your attention and awareness to reach a calm and clear state of mind. There are different types of meditation. Mindfulness meditation is one of them.

Mindfulness involves staying connected to the present moment. This can be done by focusing on your breathing, body sensations, thoughts, and feelings.

Running meditation can be considered a mindfulness practice.

Consider these tips if you want to practice meditation and mindfulness while running:

1. Focusing on your breathing

Concentrating on your breathing is often recommended as the first step in many meditative practices. It can serve as an anchor to calm your mind and quiet your thoughts.

When you start your running routine, you can breathe deeply through your nose by relaxing your diaphragm and exhaling slowly. As you run faster, you can simply watch your breathing without trying to control it.

Consider starting slow and increasing your pace gradually, as you concentrate on how your body responds to the speed increase.

2. Setting an intention

Why are you practicing running meditation? It’s helpful to establish your intention and come up with a statement that helps you stay focused on that intention.

If your mind starts wandering while you run, you can repeat the statement in your mind to help bring you back to the present.

This statement can be a positive affirmation — which is also a great way to calm down and relax. An example could be: “I am fully engaged with the present moment.”

3. Ditching the earbuds

Listening to music or a podcast while running is enjoyable. But it can be distracting if you’re trying to meditate.

Consider not using your earphones or using them to listen to white noise or nature sounds. Try different things to discover what works better to keep your mind clear.

4. Getting outside

Running on a treadmill can make connecting with the present moment more challenging. And breathing fresh air may help with meditation.

Since you’ll be meditating, it’s important to choose a place safe from obstacles and traffic. The goal is not to tune out your surroundings, but you may be less alert if you’re focusing on your body.

It’s also important to stay tuned in to your body and not ignore any pain. This could lead to injury.

1. Paying attention to your body

Try to scan your body from head to toe as you run. Consider taking note of any sensations as you do this.

You might want to focus on how the air feels as it enters your nose or how warm it comes out when you exhale. You could also focus on how the wind feels on your face or how your feet touch the pavement as you step forward. Perhaps you want to pay attention to that drop of sweat about to roll down your forehead.

Try to spend at least a few minutes on each observation and sensation.

2. Trying to avoid judgment

It’s helpful to practice observing your thoughts as they arise, without judging them. This means allowing thoughts to pop up but then letting them go.

If you’re focusing on your breath or body, try to do so without assessing or labeling. For example, you can say “I’m breathing fast and shallow” instead of “I’m not breathing correctly. I need to breathe slower.”

3. Practicing gratitude

Giving thanks can enhance the benefits of running meditation.

Try to experience gratitude about being able to run freely, the things you’re seeing and hearing, or how you’re doing something for yourself.

Yes. For many people, running can lead to a sense of joy and relaxation, similar to meditation.

Mindful running can help focus your attention on the movement of your body and your heartbeat. This, in turn, could create a meditative state, even if you’re not doing it on purpose.

Running releases chemicals in the body, called endorphins, that make you feel good. These chemicals can help:

  • reduce pain
  • boost your mood
  • improve your well-being

Meditation has been shown to do all these things as well.

Running can help you focus more on your breathing and gets you more in tune with your body. It can also reduce stress and help you relax. Again, this is similar to the effects of meditation.

Running meditation is focusing on your body and breathing while you run. It’s a great way to reconnect with the present moment and take your running to the next level.

By practicing mindful running, you can manage stress, improve your mood, stay healthy, and enjoy the benefits of both running and meditation.