From a very young age, I was taught that exercise is good for my health. This may seem pretty obvious, but that doesn’t mean I always make exercise a priority. After all, going to the gym every day can be an extremely large commitment. We know exercise is good for the body, but did you know that walking is magical for the mind, too?
Will you be adding a little more walking to your daily routine? Let us know in the comments!
Start with the breath. Wherever you’re walking, let’s start to become mindful by noticing your breath as you walk. No need to change it in any way. No need to count or manipulate the way you breathe. No need to judge whether you’re breathing too fast or wonder what this means. We’re just here to follow along with what the body naturally does.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Walking?
1. Walking Makes You less Angry
Have you ever had an explosive argument with someone and felt so angry you had to just leave the house and start walking? Well, that’s a good instinct! Walking does actually calm anger. One simple study put people on a four-week daily walking plan. Not everybody actually walked as much as they were supposed to, but still, participants’ heart rates slowed, and they were feeling less anger and hostility by the end.
2. Walking Makes You Less Depressed
We are not just less angry after walking. We have happier moods, too. A study of ethnic minority women encouraged participants to go walking however much they could handle. After just two months, those who walked more felt significantly less depressed. This is pretty remarkable for such a simple “treatment”!
3. Walking Makes You Less Tired
You may be thinking to yourself – walking is nice, but I’m so tired after a long day of work and I just need to lie down! If you do very vigorous physical work or stand all day, this may very well be true. But know that feeling tired is sometimes from being too sedentary and too bored – the less you move, the more tired you may feel! Walking is a nice, low-key way to re-energize. In fact, that same walking study with ethnic minority women found that those who walked more actually felt like they had more “vigor.”
4. Walking Helps You Tap Into The Positive Spiral of Mindfulness
“Forest bathing” – a Japanese concept of walking in nature – gives your immune system a boost, makes you mentally sharper, and makes you less stressed. And in the UK, a study has found that just one visit to a place of natural and heritage value, such as a historic house or botanical garden – made people feel less stressed and gave them higher self-esteem. That’s likely in part because walking can help you tap into the positive spiral of better mood and more mindfulness, which means to be grounded in the here-and-now. This means you can literally walk your way out of a bad mood or a rumination spiral, and instead, step into groundedness and relaxation.
5. Walking is Good for Sleep
And of course, we can’t forget about “the balm of hurt minds, the chief nourisher in life’s feast” – sleep. This is one of the great pillars of physical and mental health, and the great news is that walking helps here, too. In fact, in a group of older women, walking on the treadmill for 50 minutes one time led to better quality sleep for at least the next two nights. If we make a habit of walking, there are even bigger benefits. Young adults who walked for about an hour per day for four weeks slept significantly more, had better quality sleep, had fewer sleep problems, and even used fewer sleep medications. So if you’re walking right now, you can feel great knowing that you’re taking care of your sleep, which will help you with everything else.
Remember that when you walk, the point isn’t to manufacture positive sensations or emotions, but rather, to be in touch with whichever ones are naturally living in your body at this moment. This will help you stay grounded, better understand yourself, and have a better relationship with your body and mind.
Now, I wish you a mindful rest of your walk and many more wonderful walks to come.