You certainly hear all the time how exercise is great for your physical health, as it strengthens your muscles, helps regulate your weight, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, to name just a few of the many benefits. That’s why doctors, therapists, life coaches and everyone else whose work is focused on improving health highly recommend regular exercise to people of all ages.
But, did you know that exercise can also significantly improve your mental well-being? When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which are one of the so-called “happy” hormones that can improve your mood. They trigger positive feelings and essentially make you feel good.
Ever heard of an expression “runner’s high”? That’s what people experience when they exercise: a feeling of euphoria combined with a reduced perception of pain and reduced anxiety.
Since walking is a form of exercise, can it provide you with all those benefits as well? Is it really possible to improve your mental health with walking?
Why yes, yes it is!
As your brain gets a boost of those happy hormones, you start feeling incredibly better and ready to take on the world. Seriously, that’s the effect you start feeling when you start walking regularly, whether it’s walking to and from work or simply taking a relaxing stroll to clear your mind.
Your mood gets almost instantly improved, your focus is clearer, and you actually start feeling excited about the whole experience. Because of that, your instinct tells you to keep going, so you quickly start going everywhere by foot instead of by car or any other vehicle. Before you even know it, you’re leading an active lifestyle that fills you with happiness and leads to a much better overall health.
Walking also provides you with a sense of achievement and purpose, and it gives your confidence and self-esteem a great boost. The benefits of walking also extend to your sleep, as walking reduces fatigue. Also, your body temperature rises during physical activity, and temperature drop afterward can help you fall asleep faster. As a matter of fact, generally feeling good helps you sleep like a baby.
All of this obviously does wonders for your mental health, so you should definitely start walking on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean that you should walk miles to achieve those benefits. Even a short 30-minute walk a day can significantly improve both your physical and mental health.
Walking reduces the effects of depression
There are a great number of people who fight depression daily, feeling like there’s no way out and not knowing how to fight it off and feel better. If you happen to relate, you’re not alone, but you can effectively get rid of all those negative thoughts and feelings by simply engaging in walking.
Even if you don’t feel depressed, walking can prevent depression and reduce any feeling of anxiety. There are actually numerous studies proving that walking reduces the effects of depression.
The study, in which 1.2 million people in the USA participated over the course of four years, showed that individuals who exercised had 43.2% fewer days of poor mental health than those who didn’t exercise. It further showed that individuals who walked had their poor mental health days reduced by 10%.
You can especially reduce or prevent depression if you reconnect with natural surroundings, as nature relaxes you incredibly and helps you find your inner peace.
Going for a walk can improve creativity
Walking helps you think and boosts your creative inspiration, helping you open your mind and realize that there’s a whole world of possibilities out there. Perhaps you heard about people going for a walk to overcome writer’s block, and they really manage to do it that way!
Walking is a perfect getaway that eliminates all the negative feelings and thoughts, helping your mind refocus and get back on track. You start feeling completely at ease, which helps you put things in perspective.
That’s exactly what helps you mind heal and, as a result, you reignite your creativity. Even if you take a short break at work and go for a walk instead of chatting by the water cooler, you will come back refreshed and with more ideas, ready to supercharge your productivity.
Regular walks can improve your memory
Walking can greatly boost your memory and various other cognitive abilities. It helps you improve your long-term memory, and it greatly reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline caused by aging.
This is because it increases the size of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain associated with making memories. The hippocampus decreases in size with aging, which is almost inevitable, but you can increase it even if you take very short walks on a daily basis, thus improving your memory, attention and the speed of processing your thoughts.
If you can find a walking buddy – even better
You can experience all these benefits by going for a walk all by yourself, but walking with friends and loved ones will increase those benefits to a great extent. It will help you reduce the feelings of loneliness and provide you with a sense of belonging.
Everyone needs human interaction, and being able to share your awesome experience of putting one foot in front of the other with someone dear to you will simply make you feel incredible. Walking really does build social bridges, so find a walking buddy and hit the road.
By improving both your physical and mental health, walking improves the overall quality of your life. Therefore, stop scrolling your social media feed, unplug from technology and go for a walk right now. Turn it into a habit and start living your life to the fullest.