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Does Walking Help Your Mental Health?

Does Walking Help Your Mental Health

Is mental health solely the responsibility of policy makers or can we take simple steps to help ourselves?

Many of us are 'busy'. When we are time-poor or energy-poor, physical activity can be one of the things we schedule out of our daily routine.

Buying time by not exercising could be losing time when it comes to longevity and decreasing our overall well-being.

It can be hard to juggle modern life, but we must make time for physical activity. One of the simplest forms of activity is walking because we need very little to engage in the activity, and we can find ways to slot it into our days.

Mental Health in Our Society

For some, it feels like we live in a fast-paced pressure cooker. We are a digitally over-connected world, with negative messaging all around us. Mental health issues have reached an alarming level. Stress, anxiety, and depression are no longer isolated concerns; they have become widespread. They affect individuals from all walks of life.

The scientific article Facilitators and barriers in the development and implementation of depression prevention and treatment policies in China: a qualitative study, by Zhang, Y., Wang, Y., Shen, Y., & Zhang, R. (2023). States that " According to to World Health Organization (WHO) 2020, more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression."

Many cases of depression are undiagnosed and untreated. Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health conditions globally. Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 284 million individuals.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2020, more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from depression.

Some suggestions made by the article to improve the impact of mental health conditions globally are:

  • Integrate mental health in primary care to improve access and reduce stigma.

  • Government support is essential for effective mental health policies.

  • Educate the public to enhance awareness and reduce mental health stigma.

  • Standardize training for healthcare providers to improve care quality.

  • Adopt culturally sensitive approaches in mental health interventions to increase effectiveness across diverse populations.

Walking and Its Impact on Mental Health

Walking is a simple and accessible form of physical activity. Getting out of the house offers significant mental health benefits. Regular walks can lead to improvements in mood. It can also help manage symptoms of depression.

Whether it's a brisk 30-minute morning walk or a gentle 5-minute walk, adding walking into your daily routine is powerful. Walking can enhance mental well-being. The positive effects of outdoor walking include reduced stress response, better sleep patterns, and a boost in mood.

Does Walking Help Your Physical and Mental Health?

Physical health and mental health are not synonymous. To say that would be downplaying the complexity of mental health. But for some, there is a connection between physical health and mental health.

So for some does walking help? Yes, the article Association Between Physical Activity and Risk of Depression found that "Adults meeting physical activity recommendations (equivalent to 2.5 h/wk of brisk walking) had a lower risk of depression, compared with adults reporting no physical activity." The article suggests that even moderate levels of physical activity, like regular walking, can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing depression.

Walking can include a wide range of intensity, from high-intensity hikes to gentle-paced strolling. Walking isn't just about building physical strength or improving cardiovascular health; it is a tool to nurture a healthy mind.

Physical activity triggers neurochemical processes in our bodies. This can positively impact our mental state. Walking can release endorphins. Endorphins are often called "feel-good" hormones, which can elevate mood and reduce stress.

Regular physical activity, such as walking, has been associated with enhanced cognitive function. Walking helps give us better sleep patterns and increased self-esteem. All of this plays a vital role in maintaining good mental health.

My Experience Walking

While walking will not be a solution or an aid to all, it can ease symptoms for some. Walking is a way to lift the day's weight off my shoulders and clear my head. It is a way to separate my work life from my home life.

Walking in the morning is a caffeine-free kick-start that puts me in a more positive frame of mind to take on the rest of the day. It also gives me a sense of achievement. Knowing that I have done something positive for my mind and body is a small win if I know my day is likely to be difficult. It is something I can control in a world of things I will never be able to control.

Physical Health Benefits of Walking

Walking is not only good for your mind but also supports physical health. It helps in blood circulation, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. All this while improving cardiovascular fitness.

Regular walking, especially at a brisk pace, can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Moderate-intensity exercise like walking can help manage body fat and increase body confidence. For those with busy schedules, walking is a convenient and affordable exercise option that can fit easily into a daily schedule.

Incorporating Walking Into Your Life

Walking is an activity that requires little to no specialised equipment. There are no expensive treatments and no elaborate training. It's a simple exercise that can empower individuals to take control of their mental well-being. It can help you to work towards a healthier, happier life.

Begin by setting attainable goals to ensure consistency. Consider enlisting a walking buddy or joining a support group for motivation and companionship. I have a dog, and she tells me when it is time to move!

It is ok to go for a 5-minute walk! Sometimes, the hardest part is starting. It is about getting outside and moving your body. Sitting too long makes me feel like my blood stagnates and my brain cannot function. By getting up and moving, I get oxygen and my blood pumping. Walking gives me an energy boost.

Modern technology can aid your journey; walking apps and fitness trackers can help track progress. Overcoming obstacles with creative solutions makes walking a rewarding part of your self-care.

How Does Walking Help Your Health?

It helps both your physical and mental health. Here are a list of some of the benefits:

  1. Improved Cardiovascular Health

  2. Weight Management

  3. Muscle Strength and Endurance

  4. Enhanced Joint Health

  5. Bone Health

  6. Improved Mood

  7. Stress Reduction

  8. Better Sleep

  9. Enhanced Digestion

  10. Increased Longevity

  11. Improved Cognitive Function

  12. Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

  13. Boosted Immune System

  14. Increased Energy Levels

  15. Social Engagement

Does Walking Help Your Mental Health? Walking can be enjoyed at various levels of intensity. It can be relaxing, provide a challenge, and provide social connectedness when you walk with a friend or see regulars on your route. Walking improves your physical health. It builds your muscles and improves your cardiovascular fitness.

Time to lace up those sneakers, grab the dog, a friend, or a podcast and get moving!


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