Walking for mental wellbeing

Published by Clara on

A young woman with a blue backpack and white t-shirt walking through a wood

It’s well known that walking is good for you. From helping with weight loss and heart health to strengthening bone and muscle, there are a wealth of studies that show what a great form of exercise walking can be. Indeed, research published in the journal Experimental Biology found that walking can also benefit brain function and sense of wellbeing (Source: Science Daily).

Boost blood flow

In the study, scientists at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the impact of the foot hitting the ground can send waves of pressure through the arteries and significantly change and increase blood flow to the brain.

The scientists measured the brain waves of 12 healthy young adults during standing upright rest and steady walking (around one meter per second). They found that while walking had a lighter foot impact than running, it still produced large pressure waves and increased blood supply.

Study author Ernest Green said that although the effects of walking were not as impressive as running, they were bigger than the effects of cycling, which doesn’t require any foot impact.

Get more from your walk

If, like me, you find that walking helps you to clear your mind and reduce stress, here are three simple things that can help you make the most of that time:

1. Take deep breaths

A young woman with brown hair stretches outside in the autumn sunshineMindfulness isn’t just for those who practice yoga; you can concentrate on breathing and relieve stress as you walk. To do this, focus on your breath and try to match your inhalations and exhalations with your steps.

Inhale deeply as you step on your heel, take a few strides, and then exhale when your toe touches the ground. Once you get into a rhythm you’ll find that you’ll be able to walk much further and feel more refreshed.

2. Walk with others

Three teenage girls walking on a beachWalking with other people is great for mental health and can help you to overcome feelings of loneliness. Next time you pop out for a lunchtime wander (and when coronavirus restrictions allow!) why not ask your colleague to join you? One rule – you’re not allowed to discuss work!

An organisation called Walking for Health also runs thousands of group walks across the country – you can find your local scheme here.

3. Take in your surroundings

A pair of feet in a running steam of waterResearch shows that nature can be an all-natural mood booster. When you’re out on your next walk, breathe in the smell of cut grass, soak up the sun and dip your toes in a pond or river. Feels good, right?

Walking in nature is extremely relaxing and well worth doing if you feel like you need to recharge.

How about you?

Does walking help you to relax? What tips do you have for others who are looking to improve their wellbeing?


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