How Walking Affects Your Mental Health
Need a pick-me-up? Just lace up your sneakers and put one foot in front of the other!
There's no denying that there are numerous health benefits to walking. Walking has been linked to reduced cholesterol and blood pressure and improved heart health. It may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions. A daily walk can help you lose weight or maintain weight loss. And it may improve sleep and increase your energy. But that may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits this easy-to-do activity offers.
In addition to the physical health benefits associated with walking, there are also mental health benefits. In fact, simply lacing up your shoes and taking a walk may be one of the best things you can do for your overall well-being.
Here's how walking may improve your mental health:
- Boosts your overall mood
- Eases stress and anxiety
- Helps reduce symptoms of depression
- Increases mental alertness (and may slow cognitive decline)
- Improves self-esteem and body confidence
One reason why walking is so good for your mental health is that it increases blood flow and circulation throughout your body, including to your brain. This can affect your central nervous system, which helps calm your nerves and reduces stress.
If you walk with other people, you also get the added benefit of positive social interaction. So not only do you reap the benefits of physically moving your body, but those social interactions can improve your mood, increase your self-esteem and ward off depression.
Walking in nature has been shown to be especially beneficial to your mental health. If you have the opportunity, take a walk or a hike outdoors whenever possible. Getting some fresh air and being out in nature has more positive effects on your overall well-being than you may even imagine. Taking a stroll outside not only gives you unlimited potential to move your body and improve your lung capacity, but it's also the perfect antidote to a stress-filled life.
Take a moment or two to tap into all of your senses as you move one foot in front of the other. Look at the sights around you—the colors, textures and beauty of mother nature. Listen to the birds chirping, wind blowing or leaves crunching underfoot—or savor the silence of being unplugged and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Pay attention to the air you're breathing. Do you smell flowers blooming nearby or freshly cut grass? Does the air feel crisp and clean? Warm and refreshing?
If you're like many people, it's hard to be in a bad mood for long when you're taking a walk. Even if you start out feeling angry, stressed or sad, the act of moving your body, getting your blood circulating and disconnecting from everyday stressors will likely make you feel at least a little better. Whether you prefer to walk alone and be in your own head, enjoy a lively conversation with a friend or bop to your favorite tunes, it feels good knowing you're doing something good for your body and your mind each time you put one foot in front of the other.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 17, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD