December 13, 2023
You’ve likely heard that walking every day is good for your physical health. It’s true; a half hour walk every day is a great way to achieve the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week recommended for healthy adults. But did you know that walking is also great for stress reduction and your mental health in general?
Studies have shown that walking, and other physical activity, can have very positive effects for your mental health. How? Let’s take a look!
When you exercise, even a moderate intensity exercise such as walking, the blood and oxygen flow to your brain increases. This increased flow causes your brain to release endorphins and serotonin, your body’s natural feel-good hormones, giving you a near instant mood boost. The increased presence of endorphins and serotonin also better equip your body to respond to stressful situations overtime.
When you are stressed out your body goes into a high alert mode, sharpening your mental focus onto the source of the stress and readying your muscles for a fight or flight response. Remember, that for most of our species’ existence, stress was much more existential in nature than it is today. Your body needs to prepare very differently to run away from a hungry predator than it does to open an email from an unhappy colleague! Walking helps to release the energy your muscles had prepared for fighting or flighting and circulates more oxygen to your brain, helping to restore your brain to its non-stressed state.
Walking can be a great way to set aside some time for practicing mindfulness during your day. Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you channel your focus on the present, trying to be as aware as you can be of what you are sensing and feeling right now. Focus on the sensation of how each step feels through your whole body, the rhythm of your movement. Open your senses and be aware of your surroundings, the sights, smells, and sounds. In short, mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Being exposed to nature outdoors has been shown to have a calming, stress reducing effect on your brain. Going outside for a walk is a great way to take a few minutes of your day to reconnect with the nature that surrounds you. If it’s practical, try to take your walks in a park or on a path not directly beside the noise of a busy road to let your brain soak in all the natural goodness!
Spending time outdoors walking not only exposes you to the calming effects of nature but helps also you take time away from being in front of a screen. Screens, especially phones and computers, are often a portal into a stressful part of our lives. Setting aside time every day to go for a walk away from the constant stimulation of your screens allows your mind to decompress and be better prepared to handle the stress of the rest of the day.
Walking is exercise, especially if you aim for 30 minutes of walking at a brisk pace. Exercise gives your body an energy boost by circulating more oxygen to your muscles as well as releasing chemicals in your brain that will make you feel more energetic. Further, walking, or any regular physical activity helps you to sleep better at night. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for feeling energized and ready to tackle any stressful situations during the day.
Do you want to supercharge the exercise benefits of walking? Try walking with walking sticks; properly used, they incorporate your upper body into your walking workout to turn your walk into a full body workout!
Sources of stress come in many forms, and some of those are not immediate in-your-face issues. Worrying about long-run problems such as financial stability or your health, also greatly contribute to adding stress to our lives. While we can’t promise that walking everyday will provide you with financial security, it is a very good way to invest in your overall health. Walking, and exercise in general, has many benefits for our health and will help you to worry less as you feel that you are taking action to prevent long term illness.
When we get stressed-out our ability to think is narrowed as our minds focus on the source of our stress. This can often make us feel as though there is no way to overcome the situation as all our thinking ends up leading to the same place. Going for a walk can help put your mind into a more creative state and help find resolutions for your stress.
Accomplishing goals, big or small, makes you feel better about ourselves and builds your self-confidence. Setting a goal and achieving it such as sticking to a walking schedule is a relatively easy way to build a sense of accomplishment into your daily life. Self-confidence is important for believing that you can overcome the stressors in your life.
Walking on your own is great for your health, but walking with others can also have great benefits. Walking with a group of people you are close to a trust is a great way to create a space where you feel comfortable to discuss the stressors in your life. Talking about your stress and problems that you are facing is proven to help feel relieved from your troubles.
With all these amazing health benefits, both physical and mental, waiting just a step outside your door, there is no time like the present to get out and take a walk to ease your mind!