Did you know how connected your legs and your mind are?
Whether you walk with a group or on your own, walking is great. It can improve your mood, reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, and it can help create more balance in your life.
Walking is weight bearing exercise
Walking is good exercise. It is low-impact, but it is weight-bearing (you carry your own body weight when you walk). Low-impact weight-bearing exercise helps keep bones strong and healthy without putting too much strain on your joints.
Here are some of the good things that come from walking:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- stronger bones and improved balance
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- reduced body fat.
And, it’s good for your mind.
How does walking help your mind?
Walking and other exercise can help improve self-esteem, decrease negative thoughts and improve your general feeling of well-being.
You don’t have to be a youthful power walker to get the mental health benefits of walking. Studies have shown exercise is always associated with improvements in mental health, and this is not age-related; everyone can benefit from the activity.
Walking is not only a good booster of positive mental health, it is also a particularly good tool for managing the symptoms of mental ill-health.
Walking and depression
Walking is a useful tool for tackling the symptoms of depression. Some researchers looked at a range of walking projects – walks that were provided as treatment for people with a wide variety of experiences of depression, including post-natal depression. The research included walks that were done inside and outside, times when walking was the only treatment people were offered, and times where walking was offered in combination with other treatments. The researchers concluded that walking had a significant positive effect on symptoms of depression that was consistent whether people walked inside or outside, alone or in groups, with treatment through medication or without.
Walking and anxiety
There is less known about the effect of walking on anxiety than depression but what is known suggests walking and other forms of physical activity can benefit people living with anxiety. People living with panic disorders who exercise have reported some improvement in their symptoms and people living with agoraphobia find cardiovascular exercise helps them towards overcoming their anxiety.
How do I become a walker?
Here are some ideas
- Make walking part of your day – try getting a routine of doing it at the same time
- Ask someone to walk with you – that makes it more fun
- Join a walking group – the group is organised for you, you can just turn up, walk, and make friends
- Keep a journal of your walks – make sure you congratulate yourself if you are sticking with it
- Wear a pedometer – it’s very instant feedback on how you are doing
- Borrow a dog (that’s not a joke – many dog owners will gratefully accept your offer!)
Walking doesn’t pose much of a health risk, but if you have a medical condition, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before you start any new exercise program.
How much should I walk every day?
For walking to give you health benefits, you should try to walk at least 30 minutes a day as briskly as you can. Every day means every day. Brisk means you can talk but you can’t sing. But start slowly to give your muscles a chance to warm up.