Walking isn’t just great for your physical health, but it also gives you more energy, improves your mood and makes you feel great! A 10-minute walk can give you more energy than half a cup of coffee, and it’s zero-calorie and good for you too! You’ll feel great knowing that you’ve hit your personal daily step goal, but there are actual, unexpected mental health benefits to exercise like walking that you should know about.
People walk for all sorts of reasons: some walk for exercise, some walk to get to work, while others walk for relaxation or to get their dog some exercise. We’d like to add one more reason to stretch your legs and take a walk: it boosts your mood. Feeling blue and disheartened? That’s a good reason to get up out of your chair and put one foot in front of the other. Keep reading to learn more about the surprising mood-boosting benefits of walking.
Walking Really Works to Lift Your Spirits
Skeptical? Psychology Today cites a study on walking that proves its mood-lifting abilities, even when people aren’t expecting it to happen. In this study, college students watched not-very-exciting videos. Some students sat, others walked on a treadmill, and still others stood. The students were told they were going to have to write an essay on one of the videos, a boring task that decreased the happiness and made the mood worse for the standing and sitting students. The students who walked, however, still showed uplifted moods despite the prospect of having to write a boring essay. The mere act of walking can make you happier and more positive!
Why Walking Works
First, walking relieves stress. Walking and other low to moderately strenuous activities have been proven to lower stress levels according to studies like this one from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Both people with more strenuous routines and people who sat around all day experienced higher stress levels.
Second, walking helps you loosen up in more ways than one. Walking loosens up your muscles, which may be tightened due to stress. Getting rid of those physical knots goes a long way to helping you loosen up your mind, allowing it to drift toward a more positive outlook.
Fourth, walking releases endorphins, which are natural hormones your body produces to help you feel great. Harvard Health Publishing suggests that walking an hour a day can help mitigate the effects of major depression because of those feel-good hormones and the way walking helps you get your mind off your worries.
How to Get a Bigger Mood-Boost Out of Your Walk
If you’re looking to amp up your mood-boosting abilities, try one or more of these great walking tips:
- Take your walk outdoors. The fresh air and natural environment will do you good. Plus, if indoor stressors are causing your difficulty (like being stuck in front of a computer at work), putting physical distance between yourself and the stress-causer can help improve your outlook.
- Take your walk to the woods, if you can. Studies like this one show that walking in a rural or forested environment increase the mental health benefits of walking. If a nature walk is an option for you, take it!
- Walk when the sun is shining. Sunshine gives you an extra dose of cheerfulness by boosting your levels of Vitamin D.
- Walk with a partner. Chatting and laughing with friends is a sure recipe for a better mood. If you’re feeling down, sometimes you just need to vent. If your walking partner is a good listener, try talking through them with him or her. You’ll feel better when your feelings are out in the open. And because walking is great for your partner’s mood as well, you’ll have a more positive and open listener.
- Observe your surroundings. The more you think about what you see, the better you’re going to feel. You could try concentrating on all five of your senses. Simple observations work to take your mind off your worries, thus reducing anxiety and stress.
- Connect with your physical body. Tied to breathing and meditation techniques, the trick is to notice everything your body is feeling.
- Allow yourself time to think. If you’re walking alone, a short, 15-minute walk can give your mind enough time to work through some of its tangled-up problems. The extra thinking time is great for sharpening your mind, getting rid of mental cloudiness, and increasing your creativity.
- Notice how walking improves your overall health. One great benefit leads to another. Walking is good for your physical health, which is enough to make anyone happy! As you walk, remind yourself every so often about how great walking is for your health and you’ll be motivated to keep going.
Steps to Feeling More Positive Today
Now that you know how great walking can make you feel, it’s important to put it into practice. You don’t need to completely change your lifestyle to take a short walk and enjoy its mood-boosting benefits. Instead, look for opportunities to walk during your typical day. Park farther away from the door, so you have to walk across the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up and walk around your office instead of wheeling your office chair back and forth. Ask a coworker to talk a quick walk during your lunch break. Walk your kids to the park.
If you’re sitting for long periods of time, you’ll notice that your mood and energy may start to drop. Try to get up and take a short walk every hour (or more often if you can). Walking 2-5 minutes every hour improves your mood, energy, and creativity. That 5-minute walk may even be better for you than sitting for extended periods and then taking the same time walking.
Feeling particularly blue? Make it a priority to get outside for a stroll. Remind yourself how important this is for your health, your energy level, and your mental outlook. You can be your own walking coach, which gives you the power to get out, walk more and feel great! The power to improve yourself is within your reach.
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