How Walking Can Reduce Stress and Depression

How Walking Can Reduce Stress and Depression

The power of walking as a stress-reliever and mood enhancer is often underestimated. Walking is such a simple exercise, one that most people do without thinking. However, walking as a conscious form of exercise has been known to reduce stress and depression.

Walking to Relieve Stress

In general, exercise is a proven stress-management technique. It helps to take your mind off of stressful life situations. It also assists in protecting the heart from the harmful effects of stress. Walking briskly is one form of exercise that has been known to relieve stress.

A short, brisk walk can do wonders for shifting your attention away from the day's challenges and toward appreciating the present moment. While walking, you may notice beautiful scenery, a friendly dog or a mom with her cute babies. These experiences and others may help you to appreciate the good things in life and connect you with others. Often, those who are feeling down or under a great deal of stress feel lost in their own minds; connecting with others is soothing and a good reminder to see the bigger picture.

A Manageable Form of Exercise

However, even if the walk is done in solitude and without interaction with others, just being in nature and moving the body can have a positive effect on the body and the mind. The key is to establish a walking regime that is easy to maintain. Many people who start a new exercise program set unrealistic goals and find themselves feeling defeated when, for example, they set out to walk five miles and are bored or unable to physically continue after half a mile. The key is to start slowly and always consult with a doctor first before beginning a new exercise program. If an activity is fun, interesting and enjoyable, the chances of adhering to it are greater.

Walking as a Goal

Stress management studies show that if you make a plan and carry it to completion, this helps you to feel more in control and gives you a sense of accomplishment. As it applies to walking, if you are new to exercise, you might consider walking just ten minutes per day to start out. If doing this every day seems taxing, you might limit it to a few days a week. Soon you might find that you are enjoying yourself and wanting to increase your walk by a few minutes each time or more days per week. The key is to start with a manageable activity and accomplish each small goal, building on it across time.

Some ways to enjoy your walk include selecting a path that is free of noise and pollution. Walking in scenic locations helps to uplift the mood. Additionally, listening to music while walking has been known to reduce stress. In one study that observed students who listened to a gentle piece of music while performing a stressful task, music was found to lower the heart rate and blood pressure, and decrease feelings of anxiety. Therefore, combining walking, beautiful scenery and soothing music is a helpful strategy for reducing stress and depression.

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