10 Reasons Why Walking Is Good for Your Mental Health

walking

There’s nothing quite like a good walk to improve your mood and get you moving after a long day behind a desk. Did you know walking can actually help improve your mental health as well as your physical well-being? If you’re hesitant to get out and start walking, here are 10 reasons why walking is good for your mental health to encourage you to get started.

Endorphins Make You Happy

To paraphrase the iconic Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde,” exercise produces endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. While the movie itself might not be a paragon of medical information, she’s not wrong. Exercise, even just a good 30-minute walk, causes your body to release endorphins into your bloodstream. Endorphins react with the parts of your brain that alter your perception of pain. This creates an overall feeling of well-being.

Endorphins have been shown to help reduce stress and improve the symptoms of depression in adults who walk or exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.

All the Good Brain Chemicals

Endorphins aren’t the only good chemicals that are released when you’re taking a walk. Exercise also helps increase the amount of dopamine and serotonin produced by the brain.

Dopamine is released in response to positive behaviors. If you’re doing something that feels good, it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, which also improves mood. Serotonin is also released at the same time, and it is essential for emotional and mental health.

Imbalances in serotonin and dopamine have been shown to increase the occurrence and severity of anxiety and depression symptoms. A nice walk can be a great way to balance out those chemicals to improve your overall mental health.

Kick Stress to the Curb

We’ve got one more brain chemical to talk about. A good walk increases the amount of norepinephrine in the bran. This reduces the effect of stress on your body and also helps you manage how stress affects your mind.

As an added bonus, walking helps reduce the amount of cortisol your body produces. Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol encourages your body to retain fat. If you’re trying to lose any sort of weight, start with your mental health and work on getting that cortisol out of your system.

Remember All the Good Times

This benefit of walking actually comes in two parts. Everyone loves to be able to remember the great times in their lives, so it’s important to get out there and start walking. Studies have shown that walking 30 minutes a day a few times every week helps both sharpen your memory and prevent cognitive decline later in life.

While it’s not a cure for cognitive decline, working out regularly helps prevent the normal decline in mental facilities that can occur in individuals over the age of 45.

Go Green

Getting out into the woods is a great way to improve your mental health. Recent research has proven that city dwellers who don’t get to spend a lot of time in nature are at higher risk for developing depression, anxiety and other related mental illnesses.

Even if you don’t live in the city, you’re not totally out of luck. Even spending time in a city park or other green space can be beneficial to your mental health. Take some time to explore the parks and other areas in your city that might offer that green refuge you need to improve your mental health. There is something therapeutic about kicking off your shoes and feeling the grass between your toes.

Experience Less Anxiety

Generalized anxiety disorder and its related conditions affect around 18% of the adult population in the United States alone, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Believe it or not, a regular walk can help you reduce anxiety symptoms. One study found that exercising during episodes of anxiety helped the individual calm down faster, while another found regular high-intensity exercise can reduce one’s sensitivity to anxiety.

Social Activity Is Positive

Sometimes, all you need is a good friend to listen to you vent or a shoulder to cry on. Why not take your friend — or more than one friend — with you while you walk? It’s a great chance to socialize and update each other on your respective lives while enjoying all the benefits of some light exercise.

If you need some science to back this one up, a recent study proved that people exercise better when paired up with a friend or workout buddy. Walking by yourself on a treadmill gets the job done, but you’ll find yourself feeling better if you’ve got a walking buddy to share a conversation with.

Boost That Creativity

No matter what your creative outlet is, running into a block can be the worst feeling in the world. If you find yourself stuck on your latest creative project, try going for a walk. Just walking changes your local scenery and can help improve your creativity. If you can get out into the wild or at least somewhere green, it’s even better. Scientists have proved time and again that spending time in natural settings helps improve creativity.

Next time you hit a block, go for a walk in the woods, or at least through your local park. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with once you get back to the grind.

Productivity Is Amazing

We all hit that period of time in the afternoon when lunch is over but you’ve still got the rest of the day ahead of you, and those hours just seem to drag along. Dragging your way through the end of your shift is a sure-fire way to damage your mental health. A quick after-lunch walk could be just the thing to get you fired up for the rest of your shift.

Taking a break, even if it’s just five minutes to look away from your screen, will actually make you more productive in the long run.

Inspire and Be Inspired

What is it about seeing your gym-rat friends that makes you want to sign up for a gym membership the next chance you get? Seeing people change themselves is great inspiration for other people who might be looking to make that same change. Not only can you take advantage of all the mental health benefits of walking, but you might inspire someone else to start their own exercise or mental health journey.

Something as simple as a walk around your neighborhood can do wonders for your mental health. So what are you waiting for? Put the phone down, pause your Netflix or step away from your keyboard and treat yourself to a nice walk. You’ll be amazed how good you feel afterward.

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