If you are anything like us, then you’ve walked more in the last two years than you ever have before! Whether you are wanting to improve your health or want to shed a few kilos, walking is truly one of the most underestimated forms of exercise that can help. With walking being one of the new popular ways to socialise and keep active, we wanted to look into the huge benefits that the simple exercise of walking has on your mindset and mental health. Check out 5 ways walking helps boost your mindset and mental health below!
Improve your mental health
Ensuring you get your body moving multiple times a week, or more often if you can, is not only great for your physical health, but your mental health too. The benefits both mentally and physically make it one of the easiest and most positive ways you can care for your body and mind. Many studies have even demonstrated that walking reduces symptoms of mental illness, such as depression.
In fact, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by up to 26%. In addition to relieving symptoms of depression, research also shows that maintaining a consistent exercise schedule can prevent you from relapses too. Amazing, right?
Walking has also been discovered as a way to assist in the reduction of anxiousness. Walking can relieve tension and stress. Being able to focus on certain things whilst walking like the steps you are taking, or your surroundings on your walk can help too.
Top up your Vitamin D
When you are feeling a bit low in energy, one thing that is often offered as advice is to ‘get some sun’. It is no secret that heading outside for a walk in the sun will almost always boost your mood if you’re feeling a little flat. So why is that the case?
Vitamin D is received into the body from both sun exposure and from certain food intake. While a deficiency in Vitamin D is often mentioned in correlation with bone health, it is now more commonly being discussed in relation to mental health as well. Vitamin D not only plays a very critical role in physical aspects, but also mental health and cognitive functioning.
There are vitamin D receptors present around the brain, including the amygdala, which is associated with the regulation of emotions and behavior. Several studies have packed up this information, such as this one from the University of Rochester. So slap on some sunscreen and head out for a nice walk in the sun as often as you can for amazing benefits!
Create those happy chemicals
Now more than ever, exercise has been an escape and an essential daily mood booster for so many. With walking being one of the most accessible, affordable and easy ways to get moving, more and more people have taken to making step goals as a part of their daily routine. Plus, exercise in any form is an endorphin releaser!
Endorphins are one of the ‘happy chemicals’, responsible for what is commonly known as the ‘runners high’. The good news is that you don’t need to run to feel the benefits! Harvard Medical School states, “The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.” Even just 20 or 30 minutes of walking per day can change your brain for the better!
Better your sleep
Sleeping and your subsequent mood for the following day are often connected, right? If you have a night of broken sleep, the following day, your mood and focus can be very much affected. So, what is one of the best ways to aim for deeper, consistent nights sleep? You guessed it… walking!
A study published in the journal Sleep Health, found that walking was positively associated with improved sleep. “The participants who averaged the most steps during the month-long study — and who spent the most minutes being active — reported significantly better sleep, on average, than those who walked the least.”
Breaking up your day with a 20-minute walk at lunch is always a good idea. Or maybe you’d rather head out in the morning with your dog or a friend for a walk… what a wonderful way to start the day! Better yet, it sets you up for a great end to the day when your head hits the pillow!
Increase your focus and productivity
Whether you are working or studying from home or not, keeping focused in a distracting, busy world can be a challenge! If you are looking to improve your concentration on the daily, walking is often recommended as the way to go, as research shows that physical activity can improve concentration in people of all ages.
In fact, it is recommended to do short bursts of exercise throughout the day for people who work or study. Studies have shown that taking these small breaks for physical activity, like a 20 minute walk around the block during the day, improves self-reported concentration and mood – both of which could improve productivity. That is always a plus!
Make sure you incorporate daily walks to help boost your mindset and mental health.
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