If you’re feeling stressed, get moving! Exercise is great for stress relief, and walking is one of the best ways to manage stress while burning calories and getting healthier. Walking has been shown to improve your mood and mental health, and allows you to take your mind off stressful situations. A brisk walk is also a wonderful way of releasing tension from your major muscle groups while simultaneously quieting your nervous system and teaching you how to deepen your breath.
We’re covering how the simple act of walking can help reduce stress and anxiety, plus how relieving stress through walking can bring physical benefits and weight loss in other ways as well.
Walk It Out to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Brisk walking can boost your level of endorphins, the result of which can reduce your stress hormones and benefit those with mild depression. The production of these endorphins may diminish the perception of pain and also reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem. If you want an easy way to magnify these health benefits, then head outside for your walk. Studies have shown that taking a walk outside has been known to increase your memory and attention span by up to 20% and reduce your stress levels while increasing your energy.
Research from the U.K. has discovered that taking a walk could shift your brain into a calmer or meditative state. This act of entering this “zone” or zen state has found to trigger an “involuntary attention,” which means that you are able to hold your attention for longer and experience some deep reflection at the same time. What does this mean for you? Not only are you getting a great cardio workout, but you are quieting the mind to give it a break it needs while increasing your awareness all at the same time.
Walking is a fantastic exercise that can help you fight fatigue and increase your energy levels as well. A study from the University of Georgia discovered that those who were living a sedentary lifestyle and began an exercise program focused on walking had not only a 65% reduction in their fatigue levels but also a 20% notable boost in their energy.
The Effects of Stress and Anxiety on your Lifestyle
Maintaining your mental health is essential to living a healthy, happy, and fulfilled life. Not only can stress and anxiety contribute to adverse physical effects on your body, including headaches, muscle aches, chest pains, dizziness, and even heart disease, but it also can change your whole lifestyle around. You may not even realize it, but stress an leave to a variety of behaviors that are bad for your health.
- Eating Habits: Under eating, overeating, and comfort eating can be quite common when you are feeling on edge. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely grab whatever unhealthy snacks you can find and you’ll have less willpower to eat better.
- Walking can help in two ways. It can help reduce your stress level while burning calories. In addition, taking a walk when feeling stress can give you a pause that can deal with your stress before you’re able to reach for a snack.
- Emotional Seclusion and Outbursts: When you’re stressed, you’re likely to be less social, engage in more arguments, and choose more secluded and sedentary activities like T.V. watching or phone checking.
- Walking can be a great emotional release for these negative thoughts and a perfect way to increase your social interactions by incorporating friends and family into your walking plans.
- Less Exercise: Those that have these intense feelings of stress and anxiety may be less likely to exercise. Walking is easy to do as a daily habit, helping to break this cycle.
- Study after study continuously shows that the best thing you can do when you are feeling down is to put on those walking shoes and head out the door. This will not only give you that happiness boost you need, but provide you with a natural stress release, you can do on the daily.
Other Exercises that Can Help With Stress
Sometimes the best way to maximize your walking routine is to switch things up. Adding some additional exercises into your routine can not only leave you feeling your best but maximize those mental and emotional health benefits as well.
- Yoga/Tai Chi: These exercises are considered by many to be a type of integrative health approach. Activities like yoga not only combine mental and physical disciplines, but they help you find peace in your body and mind, which helps you learn how to relax and manage your stress levels.
- Cardio Boxing: One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to get out all that anger, frustration, and stress. Cardio boxing is an incredible activity that not only works your total body, but provides a way for you to release those negative emotions that take a toll on your health.
- Dancing: Whether you are taking ballroom dance lessons or just freestyling in your living room, dancing provides you with a variety of emotional, mental, and physical benefits. Not only can it reduce the risk of dementia, but it gives your mood the boost it needs to help fight off depression.
Most fitness enthusiasts know that walking can boost cardiovascular health, help ward off certain diseases and cancers, and even assist you in maintaining your weight and fit lifestyle. However, what most people don’t realize is how fantastic walking is for your mental health.
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National Walking Day: 5 Ways Walking Helps To Relieve Stress. (2013). HuffPost.
Green spaces reduce stress levels of jobless, study shows. (2012). By The University of Edinburgh. PhysOrg.
Low-intensity exercise reduces fatigue symptoms by 65 percent, study finds. (2008). By Sam Fahmy. The University of Georgia.
Exercise and Depression. (N.D.). WebMD.
How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Your Daily Life. (2016). By OREM FAMILY MEDICINE. Revere Health.
9 Exercises for Stress Relief. (2017). Everyday Health.