As May is National Walking Month 2016, we thought we’d look at the mental health benefits of walking.
The physical benefits of walking are well known. It’s an excellent form of easy exercise that burns fat, encourages bone density, lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can benefit memory functions. Walking is also excellent for mental health in the following ways:
Walking is exercise, and exercise improves mood
Any type of exercise releases endorphins, and walking is no exception. Endorphins are a hormone which calm and boost mood. A walk of 30 minutes is recommended to start releasing this hormone, but if you can’t walk for that length of time, you can supplement it on either time with gentle exercise such as stretching or even housework.
Walking gets you out and about
Some mental health issues are exacerbated by or have symptoms of isolation, either real or perceived. It’s easy to lose days without leaving the house or going out as little as possible, and walking can help break that cycle. Coupled with the mental health benefits of walking as mentioned above, getting out and about a little bit more can be the first step in improving mental health.
Walking takes time
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts which can wear down mental health. Going for even a short walk can help to interrupt these though patterns, or give you a different space and perspective to tackle them. It also gives you something positive to incorporate into your routine to maintain good mental health.
Walking is cheap and easy
All you need are decent shoes and clothes for whatever weather you’re going out in. You don’t have to invest in any specialist clothing or equipment as you would with other “entry-level” physical activities such as jogging or cycling.
Walking helps you sleep
Exercise is a tiring activity, which can help provide a better night’s sleep. Good sleep is a crucial part of good mental health, as it give you, and your brain, the chance to properly rest and repair.
Walking takes you places
Going for a walk can be a way to discover a whole new side of familiar areas where you live or work. This change in routine and observance of new things can be an excellent way to divert your brain from depressive, stressed or anxious thoughts.
If you’re wanting to use technology to log your travels or get ideas for new routes, we suggest you check out our guide to walking apps: