How much time do we spend walking every day? Even if you don’t walk for exercise or don’t think you walk very much, you probably walk to and from different places all the time, such as to the bathroom, to your car or the bus, to the elevator, from the couch to the kitchen, and so forth. Walking is probably one of our most common daily activities. That’s a good thing, too. Indeed, apparently, sitting is the new smoking. Sitting and being otherwise sedentary as a pattern of daily life seems to have very negative health effects. And, when things have negative health effects, they probably negatively affect our brains as well. Many of the research programs focusing on brain fitness and the prevention of dementia have focused on physical exercise, and the most common type of exercise investigated is walking. Studies have found that regular, moderate exercise, such as walking, can even slow down age-related degeneration of the hippocampus (an important area of the brain involved in learning and memory) (http://news.ubc.ca/2015/07/23/aerobic-exercise-is-as-good-for-the-older-brain-as-it-is-for-the-body/). Bolstered by these kinds of findings, many apps and fitness programs have focused on ways to increase the number of steps we take each day. My mom gave me a fitbit for Christmas, and so far, it tells me that I’ve been taking between 10,000 – 18,000 steps per day. That seems like a lot of steps. I have no idea whether I’ve been walking around more since I fired up the fitbit, but I’m definitely more aware of my walking than ever before. Keeping track of your behaviour can change your behaviour. It can also, however, make you more obsessive and compulsive about your behaviour, so be careful if you tend to go in that direction with things. Another interesting thing about walking is that, when we walk, we’re often not really just walking. We’re planning what we’re going to do for the rest of the day, thinking about the past, worrying about the future, doing things on our smartphones, and trying to get from one place to another as quickly as possible. What if walking could just be walking? When I talk with people about mindfulness practice, they often tell me they can’t see how they could possibly fit it into their busy lives. I have a busy life, too, and it’s a challenge to keep up with the mindfulness practice, although I have a pretty well-entrenched morning routine involving daily practice. If I were having a hard time keeping it up, I might reflect on all of these steps I’m taking each day. What if, for only 10% of those steps, I decided to practice mindful walking, focusing completely on the experience of walking, the feeling of my feet on the ground, the movement of my arms and legs, the sights and sounds around me, and so forth? That would add up to a lot of mindfulness practice. Try this out. Even if you’re just walking 30 seconds to your car, throw yourself completely into the experience of walking, keep the smartphone in your pocket, let go of worry about the future, thoughts about the past, and the desire to get to your car quickly. Sink into the act of walking as if it’s the most important thing to do. ~Alexander L. Chapman, Ph.D., R.Psych.