A lot of people take up walking in hopes of getting fit or losing a little bit of weight, but many people find that it becomes a surprisingly enjoyable habit once they get started. That’s because walking is so much more than a way to move your body and burn calories; it also has a number of benefits for your mental health. In fact, many people who start walking regularly report that they simply don’t like the way they feel on the days they can’t fit in a walk. Whether you’re feeling anxious or depressed or you’re just low on energy, walking can make a significant difference to your mental health. Here is a look at six good reasons to get outside and start taking regular walks.
1. Access greater creativity and confidence
One big reason people gain so much satisfaction from walking is the fact that it can give your self-esteem a boost. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh or how old you are; exercise can boost your perception of your attractiveness and your self-worth. It can also help you access greater creativity. In fact, one study showed that exercise can give your creativity a boost for as long as two hours afterward. The next time you’re feeling uninspired, start walking! Take your walk outside and get closer to nature to maximize the benefits. Studies show that exercising surrounded by pleasant nature views can boost your self-esteem further.
2. Get more done
If you’ve hit a lull in your work and are feeling sluggish, head out for a short walk. According to research, workers who exercise regularly have more energy and are more productive than those who do not. If your work schedule allows it, try to plan your walk for midday as that’s the best time for a walk according to your body’s circadian rhythm.
3. Help control addiction
Exercise can be surprisingly useful in recovering from addiction. Addiction is related to the reward chemical dopamine that is released by the brain in response to drugs, alcohol, and even sex and food. Exercise can increase the brain’s levels of dopamine, thereby creating more positive addiction pathways that can counter the negative ones. Walking’s effects on rebooting your body’s internal clock can also help regulate sleep, which is useful for those who find themselves unable to fall asleep without having a drink, for example.
Cardiovascular exercise like walking has been shown in studies to create new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis. This has the effect of boosting your brain performance overall. A strenuous walk could also boost your levels of a protein called BDNF, which can help enhance higher thinking, learning and decision-making.
5. Alleviate anxiety and stress, boost happy hormones
Exercise’s ability to reduce stress is so widely documented that it’s often the first mental benefit of walking that people cite. It boosts the concentration of norepinephrine, which helps regulate your brain’s stress response. The endorphins released by exercise like walking can help you feel euphoric, making it a great natural treatment for depression and anxiety. It has even been shown to be as effective as antidepressants when it comes to treating depression in some cases. Walking for just half an hour a few times a week is enough to improve your mood. Moreover, the Vitamin D from sunlight can help alleviate depression, so head for your nearest park or forest, breathe in some fresh air, and see how much better you feel.
6. Prevent cognitive decline and sharpen your memory
Aging has the unfortunate effect of killing off brain cells. One way you can help protect yourself against cognitive decline is by walking. This is particularly useful between the ages of 25 and 45, although it’s never too late to start. Walking can also sharpen your memory and enhance your ability to learn new things. If you’re finding yourself becoming a little forgetful, some regular walks might be all you need to boost your memory.