Tags – Walking Benefits Mental Health
Regardless of if you’re heading out for a lunchtime stroll, going for a walk with your friends in the park or thinking of giving hiking a go, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is a great way to boost your mental health.
And even though cold dark nights seem less inviting, it’s important to try and get your steps in when you can – even if it’s a quick walk round the block.
However, the best time to go for a walk is in the mornings.
Now while this may not sound appealing, it’s a great way to kick things off in the morning and sets you up for better mental health throughout the day.
What’s great, is that you don’t even have to walk for hours – just 10 to 15 minutes of fast paced walking is enough to reap the benefits and make all the difference.
From improving focus to boosting energy, here are 5 reasons why walking is good for your mental health.
1. Increased Energy
Research reveals that walking in the morning is a great way to boost energy levels for the rest of the day, especially when you go outdoors.
In fact, in a study comparing indoor and outdoor exercise, those who walked outside for 20 minutes experienced more energy than those who walked inside.
Simply, walking in the morning will give you the extra energy you need to get things done; it will set you up for the day, help you feel more organised and refreshed.
2. Boosts Mood
Not only is walking a great way to increase your energy levels, but it can leave you feeling more positive too.
In essence, when you exercise it influences the neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin (feel good hormones), to be released, which makes you feel better and lifts your mood.
So, walking in the morning is a great way to boost your mood and set your mind up for the rest of the day.
In addition, walking outside is particularly beneficial as you get to be closer to nature. Even if you live in the city, you’re likely to come across some greenery.
And, this offers even more benefits in itself, such as higher self esteem and lower stress levels.
3. Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder
Walking outside during the winter is especially important for those people who deal with seasonal affective disorder.
Sure, daylight hours are at a minimum during these months, but walking in natural light does wonders for boosting your mood.
Even though the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder is not understood, the NHS’s main theory is that lack of sunlight exposure may stop the hypothalamus part of the brain from working properly.
Therefore, by exposing yourself to more daylight by going for a walk outside, it can help reduce your risk of this happening.
Moreover, even if the sun is hidden and it’s a cloudy day, it will still provide enough light that your body is craving.
4. Increases Focus
Walking increases the blood flow to the brain, and this is closely linked to better cognitive function and protection against memory.
To put it simply, your brain is made up of:
- Grey matter: tissue containing nerve cells
- White matter: the tissue that connects nerve cells to nerve fibres
Essentially, the grey matter is your brain’s computer and the white matter is the cables that connects everything together then transmits signals.
When walking for 20 minutes, these tissues are activated and respond to the physical activity, which in turn can quicken reaction time, sharpen decision making and increase your focus.
That said, a brisk walk can help you make the most of the day and help you tackle any problems that are presented to you.
5. Improves Sleep
If you suffer from mental health, you may find it difficult to fall asleep at night.
However, getting outside as soon as you wake up could be the answer.
In fact, research reveals that people who are exposed to more light during the day fall asleep quicker at night, and with less sleep disturbances.
The reason being, is exposure to light, especially in the morning, helps to regulate your circadian rhythm.
And this promotes optimal hormone levels to help you achieve a better night’s sleep.
In other words, getting the right amount of sunlight during the day is just as important as the amount of darkness needed in your room at night.
You may have already been aware that walking everyday will better your physical health by burning calories, boosting heart health and adding extra years to your life.
Hopefully now though, you can see that walking is just as important for your mental health too; all it takes is a few quick walks to keep your brain healthy, mood positive and memory sharp.
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