If you walk on a regular basis, one of your goals is probably to improve your physical health. You may not realize that walking has a lot of other benefits as well! Walking can improve your mood, energy level, and mental health. In short, walking makes you feel great in more ways than one!
Pay attention to how you feel next time you take a nice, long walk. You may notice that you feel great and have more energy after your walk. Read on for even more mental health benefits of walking!
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Research has shown that walking can improve your mood and make you feel better. According to a California State University, Long Beach study, there was a clear link between a person’s step count and mood and energy level. As study participants walked more, they rated their diet as better and rated themselves higher on a number of mental health measures.
It makes sense when you think about it. Do you really feel great after sitting in front of the TV or computer screen for an extended period of time? Exercise, including walking, releases endorphins which can bring about feelings of euphoria and wellbeing. You also may get some peace of mind knowing that you just did a great workout instead of wasting the time!
It may seem counterintuitive, but walking can actually INCREASE your energy levels. An Australian and Swedish Study found that office workers who stood up and walked at 30-minute intervals felt less tired at the end of the day.
Aerobic exercise, including walking, can increase your physical stamina. That means you have more energy when you choose to walk. Researchers have found that increasing physical fitness can also improve self-esteem, which can lead to a more energetic frame of mind. Plus, if you do happen to be running late or need to walk longer or quicker than you expected, building up your fitness and endurance can leave you with more energy left in the tank.
Moving around gets your blood flowing, and can break up a boring day. Next time you’re stuck in the office, try standing up and walking for even a few seconds every 30 minutes. You may notice that sleepy feeling start to subside and you’ll have more energy to get your work done! That burst of energy can help you get more creative (see below), which can break you out of a rut if you’re stuck in a tough problem.
Sitting for long periods of time has also been linked to a variety of health risks and an increased risk of death. So by standing up and walking, you won’t just feel great, but you’ll be doing wonders for your health.
Improved brain function:
According to the New York Times, even a 10-minute walk can immediately improve memory and brain function.
Scientists found that after exercise, people performed better on memory tasks. When scanned in an MRI, certain parts of the brain coordinated better in the memory tests after exercise.
Other studies have shown that regular exercise, like walking, can cause long-term positive changes in the brain. Study participants walked briskly for 1 hour, twice weekly. If you don’t have an hour, you can make up the steps by taking shorter walks more frequently.
Are you too stressed to fit walking into your day? It turns out that walking can actually REDUCE stress! According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any form of exercise can help reduce stress.
Walking boosts endorphins and improves your mood, and these two factors can decrease your stress level. Taking a walk can also help you take a break from stressors and connect with your body.
Try finding a peaceful, natural environment that can help you take your mind off of your stressors and try to focus on the walk. This can be tough if you’re at work, but even a 5 minute walk around your office building or through the hallways can help remove you from your stressors and connect with your body.
Exercise like walking boosts the effects of melatonin and other sleep hormones. According to this piece by Harvard Medical School, this can help you fall asleep easier. Exercise can even be helpful for those with chronic insomnia!
Walking first thing in the morning and taking in that morning sun can help set your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep cycle too.
Be careful exercising too close to bed, however! For many, exercising right before bed makes it hard to sleep because they feel more awake and energized. It’s still great to get steps when you can, but if you work late you may want to try to get steps in as early as possible in the morning to prevent sleep disruption.
Have you ever stumbled onto a great idea while out walking? It turns out that walking can increase your creativity too! A 2014 Stanford Study found that creative thinking improves during walking. This boost lasts for a short time after walking as well! Both walking indoors and outdoors increased creativity, so you don’t have to walk in nature to get inspired!
They found this effect using a very interesting method. Researchers asked participants to think of as many uses as they could for a shoe (other than putting on your feet). Walkers came up with more uses, and more “uncommon” uses while walking than sitting. Similar tests of creative thinking while walking or spinning on a stationary bike showed more creativity with activity.
If you’re stuck looking for a good idea at work or home, why not go for a walk and do your brainstorming immediately afterward?
Fewer bad days
A Lancet study found that people who exercised had 43% fewer bad mental health days than those who didn’t exercise. This effect was greater for things like team sports, but walking had a significant effect! Walking in nature may have some additional mental health benefits as well. If you’re feeling a little down, finding a local park to walk in might help. If you really do have storm clouds over your head, try walking indoors to get those steps in and feel better.
What’s it mean?
If you’re walking to get healthier, you’re getting some amazing mental benefits as well! You probably already know that you feel better when you’re able to get your steps, but studies have shown it’s a real effect. Next time you’re feeling a little down or lacking energy, don’t think about how you don’t feel great enough to walk. Think about how walking will make you feel great!
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