Take a walk on the path of mental health

Although we often say, “life is a journey, not a marathon”, it can be fast-paced and often times we forget to slow down and walk (which is pretty ironic!). However, walking has so many health benefits.

It prevents cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, many chronic illnesses, certain types of cancer and contributes to increasing life expectancy.

But their benefits aren’t strictly physical. Walks also help to reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, reduce the risk of developing a mood or anxiety disorder, increase self-esteem, and achieve a more balanced lifestyle. So many great reasons to put down your tech devices and take care of your mental health. 

the mental health benefits of walking 

There are countless studies that show how much walking benefits your mental health. The Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatment even recommends it as a treatment for depression.

There are still many questions science can’t answer yet, explaining exactly what happens to our body physically and mentally, when we walk, but many hypotheses form a consensus.

One of the most well-known benefits without a doubt pertains to endorphins, serotonin and dopamine or “happiness chemicals”! Unfortunately, they are fickle, it’s not enough to walk your dog for 5 minutes in the closest park, it should make you slightly out of breath. Your body produces higher quantities of oxygen which leads your brain to release “happiness chemicals”. This phenomenon has been studied largely amongst athletes.

Beyond your hormones, distraction also promotes wellbeing when you walk. As you walk, you concentrate on the physical effort it takes so your brain can take a well-deserved break from daily worries. It can also help improve quality and length of sleep, which helps to reduce anxiety 

are all walks beneficial?

Do you need to walk a certain number of steps to receive the health benefits? It’s the million-dollar question ― or more so the question of millions.

The objective of 10 000 steps a day is very common and usually takes about 2 hours. For many, this can seem unattainable because of busy daily schedules. Thankfully, most healthcare professionals agree that 30-45 minutes of walking per day is sufficient to feel the physical and psychological benefits.

The environment you choose to walk in also impacts your mental health. It’s proven that taking a walk outside has more benefits than walking indoors. Many are also interested in the reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in nature.

And if you want to boost the effects walking has on your wellbeing even more, you can walk in a group which helps stop the feeling of isolation, especially amongst the elderly.

But the secret ingredient is pleasure! It’s been shown that walking ― or any other form of physical activity ― has positive effects on your mental health only if they are done for intrinsic reasons, like for fun or to feel accomplished after completing a challenge; not for extrinsic reasons, like wanting to improve your body image or being in the mindset of performance competition.

We have all been there, sometimes, finding pleasure for a few minutes walk can be difficult. At Relief, this is something we are all familiar with, that is why our mission is to guide you to better understand your path to mental health.

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Relief would like to thank Charles Saliba-Couture for his contribution to this article.

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