Going to the gym is one of the tips everyone mentions when talking about getting healthy. And I get it. The gym allows you to work different parts of your body, and you can go no matter what the weather looks like. But, let me sell you the idea of taking a walk for your health. Trust me. Let me tell you the different ways that walking can help your health goals.
Helps with Depression and Anxiety
A few studies (such as this one) have shown that walking can serve as a valuable way to help symptoms of depression and anxiety. How can that be? Walking promotes brain changes, including reducing inflammation and new activity patterns that can make you feel calm. Not to mention that walking is a physical activity, which releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals that make you feel good about yourself.
Also, taking a walk gives you a distraction from your thoughts. When you walk, you focus on your surroundings allowing yourself to ignore any negative thoughts that might pop up. If you feel a relapse, or your anxiety going up, go on a walk and practice mindfulness. Feel the wind brush against your skin or count your breaths.
Great way to Destress
Stress can cause your body to feel tense, especially in your neck, shoulders, and face causing aches in these areas. With the release of endorphins from walking, it helps relax these muscles and remove the body’s tension. Your body and mind will feel so much better. Not to mention that exercise reduces your body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. As someone who suffers from high cortisol levels, taking a walk has helped me when I feel my chest and shoulders tense up.
Walking can help your health goals and improve your self-esteem. I am not even joking. Researchers from the University of Essex found that five minutes of outdoor activity can boost your mood and self-esteem. People who are young and dealing with mental health issues tend to benefit the most when spending time outdoors. So if you are feeling down about yourself, take a walk around the block and see how you feel afterward.
How does walking help you have more energy? Walking can increase blood flow around the body, causing oxygen and nutrients to reach the muscles in your body and brain, making you feel energized. Not to mention that a 2017 study showed that going for a walk when you’re tired may be more effective for energy than grabbing a cup of coffee.
Boost Your Immune System
Taking a walk can help you from getting the cold, flu, and other immune-related illnesses. The reason is that walking increases the number of white blood cells circulating in your blood, which helps fight infection. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine from 2011 found that those who walked at a normal pace for 30-45 minutes had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer infections. Not to mention that if you do happen to get sick, walking helps your symptoms not be as severe compared to those who live a more sedentary life.
Helps Healthy Habits
While nutrition is a huge factor in weight loss, walking can be good for you as well. A study published by the journal, Appetite suggests that a 15-minute walk can cut snacking on chocolate at work by half. Taking walks during your workday doesn’t just help your stress levels but helps you avoid unnecessary snacking. I am guilty of this, so I try to take a walk before deciding if I want to snack because I am hungry or because I am stressed.
Walking can help your health in other ways too. A few ways include increasing cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and help control conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain, and diabetes.