Did you know that walking makes you happier, in addition to getting you healthier? Walking by itself is a powerful mood booster that gives you energy and increases creativity. In addition to walking’s positive effects, getting outside and taking a nice brisk walk can help you feel better in other ways as well.
No matter your fitness level or personal step goal, research shows that even a small amount of movement helps you feel great. As little as 10 minutes of walking can lift your mood and lower your risk of depression and anxiety. You’ll get out of the house, see some interesting sights, relieve some stress and get healthier. Regular walking impacts more than just your outlook on life; it affects your environment, social interaction, physical abilities and sense of daily achievement.
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Walking for happiness: five ways walking makes you feel great
Walking boosts your mood and mental health
The very act of walking can boost your mental health and make you happier! Studies have shown that just getting active can make people happier. A 2017 study covered in the New York Times showed that participants reported more happiness when they were active and moving, even if they weren’t doing rigorous exercise. The study also found that activity made people happier than sitting or lying down. According to Harvard Medicine, low-intensity exercise can also help to fight depression. Over time, sustained low-intensity exercises releases neurotrophic proteins, which help brain cells grow and improve brain function. This effect happens over the longer term, so make sure to stick with your walking habit!
Exercise like walking can also help reduce stress and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re feeling stressed about a difficult situation, taking a nice walk can both make you feel better and give you some time to reflect an analyze your situation. Walking is also helpful for those dealing with mental health issues and working through serious health and addiction issues according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Walking t lowers stress levels and provides support through a daily structured program.
Walking helps you connect with other people
Walking gives you the opportunity to interact with people around you. Even if you’re walking solo in the morning or walking in the early evening, there’s a good chance you’ll run into someone during your walk. Sharing a smile or a nod can go a little way towards brightening your day. If you tend to listen to audiobooks or podcasts when you walk, consider leaving one earbud off so that you don’t totally miss potential interactions with people you might meet.
For an even more pleasant walk, try walking with a friend or in a group. Walking together allows you to chat and strengthen your friendships while getting both you and your friends healthier. Whether you stride the miles together or agree to meet up post-walk for coffee at a local shop, the social aspect of walking together can be just what you need to feel better. For people who live alone, finding a walking buddy or arranging post-walk meetups can be a great way to have more in-person, offline interactions. Knowing that a friend is waiting for you is also one of the best motivational tools to encourage you to follow through on your walking routine. If you don’t have a walking buddy, walking a dog can be just as rewarding!
Walking lets you experience the outdoors
Being cooped up inside is a good way to feel down. Studies have shown that the lack of natural light experienced by people working indoors can lead to depressive symptoms and sleep difficulty. Conversely, spending time outdoors has been shown to improve well being – especially in a green, natural setting. According to Time Magazine, you don’t even necessarily have to get active to get this outdoor happiness boost. Walking is a great way to get to your favorite park, and once you’re there you might as well get active and enjoy some physical and mental health benefits of walking!
Even if there’s no park nearby, you can still explore your local area. How well do you know the streets around your home or office? What about the new stores in town that you’ve heard and read about, but never had the time to check out? A daily walk can be an exercise-related excuse to visit these places and get to know the people who work there. On the way, walk through the green spaces and parks your town provides. You can take a break from walking to use any fitness equipment provided along the route. That gives a chance to do some stretching or a light strength training routine. The next time you encounter inclement weather during your walk (or when it gets too cold during a winter walk), you’ll know where you can duck in for a few friendly moments until skies clear.
Walking builds endurance and physical health
Walking helps build endurance and improve your physical health, which will make you a lot happier over time! The endurance that walking builds will give you more energy to complete your daily tasks or chase your kids (or pets). Serious walkers have more energy left over at the end of the day to finish work or do household chores. You don’t need to hit 10,000 steps to see the health benefits of walking. By increasing your step total slowly over time, you’ll build up your fitness and endurance. Walking also burns calories, which can help control your weight and burn off fat over time.
Regular walking reduces the risk of heart failure, particularly for older women, and promotes the production of a brain chemical called irisin, which not only increases energy levels but may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Walking helps build and maintain muscle tissue and bone density, which can help reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Regular walking can help decrease the frequency of colds, influenza and other respiratory-related infections. It also helps boost the immune system and reduce the stress that can contribute to illnesses. Chronic illness sufferers, such as those with diabetes, heart disease, back pain, asthma, and arthritis enjoy an improved quality of life when regular exercise is included as part of their treatment plan. Exercise actually helps manage pain, maintain a healthy weight, improve joint function and increase endurance.
Feeling tired usually isn’t very fun. The more endurance you have, the longer (and faster) you can walk and still feel energic. Life often throws little obstacles in your way – you may need to rush to get somewhere, or there may be no nearby parking spots, or the elevator may be out. The endurance you build through walking helps you maintain your energy and get through your daily life even if something like this comes up.
Walking lets you set and accomplish goals
Walking is a great way to set and achieve health and fitness goals – whether it’s 10,000 steps, 30 minutes per day or any other walking goal. For most healthy people, all you need to hit your step goal is a good pair of walking shoes, enough time, and the motivation to keep on walking. Psychology Today explains that making progress towards goals (and completing them) leads to positive well being. That, in turn, gives you extra motivation to complete other goals as well! Tracking your steps on the Pacer App allows you to see that progress in real-time. Completing your walking goals can help you make progress on other health goals, like cutting out soda, eating smaller portions, or snacking smarter.
You don’t need to set a strictly step related goal either. Your long-term goals could be living long and well enough to chase the kids or grandkids around the yard, or qualifying for a 5k race walking event. Regular walking with a plan means setting and achieving that goal and moving on to a new one. The sense of well-being earned by hitting your step number for a day, then a week and then a month offers the challenge of “What’s next? What else can I do?” Use something like Pacer’s routes to plan out a longer walk, or a walk with inclines or hills. Plan a walking vacation, or perhaps a trip with one challenging walk or hike included in your itinerary.
If you’re over age 50, consider race walking at the U.S. Senior Games, which offer local and state competitions in all 50 states. Or walk a local 5K race at any age (most of these road races offer participants the opportunity to walk or run, often for a charitable cause). Stepping up to a new or different walking challenge provides a physical and mental challenge, keeps your workouts interesting and entertaining and gives you a reason to lace up those shoes (almost) every day.
Walking makes you happier for a variety of reasons! For some, walking is an opportunity to gather your thoughts and prepare for the day’s challenges. For others, it’s the chance to leave an otherwise quiet existence and find welcome companionship with fellow walkers. Hitting the local trails, parks or city streets provides new and unexpected encounters that can brighten your day. If you’re feeling down, or just want to release some stress and feel better, take a walk!
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