Walking is a great form of exercise. It’s easy to do, it’s low-impact, it doesn’t require special physical abilities and it’s absolutely free. Most importantly, it comes with multiple health benefits.
Walking can help you prevent heart disease and diabetes, lose weight, strengthen your bones, improve digestion and increase your energy levels among others. But the benefits aren’t all physical. This activity can aid you improve your mental health as well. Keep on reading to discover how walking can boost your mood.
The Impact of Walking on Emotional Health
When you exercise in general, go for a walk in our particular case, you get to release endorphins. Endorphins are hormones produced in our brain (in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus) that help us cope with pain, stress and anxiety. These are also known as the natural painkillers or the feel-good hormones, because they can make us feel happier and more energetic.
The more you walk, the higher the number of endorphins your body will be able to release. The more endorphins you release, the happier you’ll feel. Health specialists recommend walking for at least 30 minutes each day to reap those benefits. As far as intensity goes, if you can go for a brisk walk, the positive effect may be more noticeable. But there’s no need to worry if you can’t maintain a brisk pace. Walking regularly at a comfortable pace will also improve your emotional health.
The Scientific Link Between Walking and Mood
Walking is one of the best exercises to improve your mood. This has been scientifically proven over the years by diverse studies.
A 2013-study, conducted by Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, aimed to analyze the psychological effects of walking on 37 individuals. The participants to the program were monitored for 20 days, time span during which they wore a pedometer to track their steps. The results showed a clear correlation between the step count and the participant’s mood. More precisely, individuals who walked more reported they felt happier and livelier, had a higher self-esteem and an improved overall mood.
A 2016-study, carried out by professors from Iowa State University, assessed the impact of walking on emotions. At the end of their experiments, they concluded that subjects who went walking (both outside and inside on the treadmill) manifested visible improvements in their emotional wellbeing in comparison to those who were physically inactive.
Researchers from the University of Connecticut examined how the intensity of physical activity can influence subjective wellbeing. During a 4-day test, they monitored 419 healthy, middle-aged adults who had to wear an accelerometer on their hips. The findings revealed that individuals who engaged in light-intensity activity, such as a leisurely walk, and moderate-intensity activity showed the highest improvements in wellbeing and lower depression and pain levels.
In a different study, professors from the University of Mississippi investigated the effects of walking and meditation on mood state among younger adults. The participants were divided into three groups: brisk walking, meditation and a control group who remained inactive. According to the results, a 10-minute brisk walking session and meditation can generate clear mood-enhancing benefits.
Why and How to Track your Walking Progress
If you decided it’s time to incorporate walking into your daily routine, it’s advisable to keep track of your physical activity. There are several reasons why you should it. First of all, you’ll know exactly how much you’re walking and if you’re meeting the recommended guidelines. At the same time, you’ll be able to monitor your progress in time, find the motivation to keep on exercising and feel a sense of satisfaction when you reach and surpass your goals. This will help you gain confidence in your abilities and feel better about yourself.
In order to track your walking activity there’s no need to buy a fitness tracker. All you need to do is download a pedometer app, like our very own ActivityTracker. The app will automatically record your movement and provide useful data regarding your step count, the distance covered, the calories burned or the active time. You’ll have the chance to set a personal target for the metric that’s relevant to your needs and receive notifications regarding the progress towards that target. You’ll be able to see your daily, weekly and monthly activity and also share your results with others.
Exercising is a great way to improve your overall mood. But this doesn’t necessarily imply vigorous training. On the contrary. According to research, light- and moderate-intensity exercises are more efficient. You can simply walk to relieve stress and anxiety and lift your spirits. It can be a leisure walk or a brisk walk. The key is to be consistent. That’s the only way you’ll enjoy the psychological benefits of walking.