By: Megan Malone and Jonathon Stalls
Many people walk for transportation or in order to lose weight and get in better shape. Did you know that walking also has incredible mental and emotional health benefits? Here are 5 ways walking can improve your mental and emotional health.
Walking Reduces Stress
If you’re having an especially stressful day, going for a walk outdoors is a great way to calm and clear your mind. However, being choosy about your environment may result in a more zen-like experience, according to a UK study. The study found that adults who walked through outdoor areas with plenty of “green space” experienced more meditative feelings than those who walked through a busy shopping center or crowded street.
When the mind has less to focus on (cars, people, etc.) there is more head space available for reflection and meditation. Studies have shown that being outdoors in general reduces stress, and walking as with any exercise releases stress-reducing endorphins. Sounds like a good reason to go on a nice, long ramble, huh?
Walking Boosts Creativity
Many companies and organizations are embracing walking as a method of creative idea generation. From walking town hall meetings to quick, walk-and-talk sessions between coworkers, more individuals are benefitting from creative insight and conversation that come from thinking on foot.
A Sanford study found that walking, even on a treadmill indoors, made individuals twice as likely to produce creative responses compared to people who were sitting. The next time you need a new idea or fresh perspective, it might be good to go for a stroll.
Walking Increases Energy
A UGA study found that when individuals with sedentary lifestyles engaged in just 20-minutes of low or moderate intensity exercises, such as walking, their energy increased by 20 percent and fatigue levels dropped by 65 percent, when compared to individuals who did not exercise at all. Basically, scheduling an extra hour of walking time into your weekly schedule can have drastic effects on your overall mood and energy.
Walking Increases Self-Esteem
Regular walking can strengthen your heart and bones, reduce anxiety and fatigue, keep your body in shape, increase energy and endorphins, and therefore leave you feeling pretty good about yourself. Walking is a humble and patient invitation to move. Movement often brings us out of feeling stuck, isolated, and heavy in mind and in heart. It brings us into places of forward motion, the creation of new ideas, and a renewed sense of hope for what’s just around the corner.
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
~ Søren Kierkegaard, Philosopher
Walking Promotes Better Sleep
Walking boosts the body’s release of sleep hormones like melatonin. Thirty minutes of walking a day can help prime your brain for better sleep. In fact, several experts have concluded that when it comes to more restful sleep, walking has more benefits than many other forms of physical activity such as basketball or tennis (although swimming, biking, and jogging received the highest sleep-promoting ratings). While more intense exercises aren’t encouraged right before bed, a light-paced stroll may help clear your mind before getting some shuteye.
Sometimes the hardest thing about creating a walking routine that improves your physical, mental and emotional health is getting started. Once you’ve made the decision, connect with us on a walk or learn how to partner with our co-op to get more involved.
Founder of Walk2Connect