Anxiety and stress are common conditions in today’s society and anxiety-related disorders are the most common problems seen in American adults — nearly 40 million adults are affected by anxiety-related problems each year.
Though regular exercise is generally linked to physical well-being, did you know that walking can benefit emotional health and help reduce anxiety and stress?
How Does Walking Reduce Anxiety and Stress?
Walking, as a physical activity, burns calories, helps you lose weight and even lowers the risk of certain diseases, but how does it support mental health?
Many studies support the benefits of walking and researchers say that a simple 10-minute walk could be as effective as longer, more strenuous workouts. A study conducted in the U.K. found that walking could improve memory and attention span by about 20 percent and that a 20-30 minute walk, multiple times a week, may have the ability to boost your mood and reduce stress.
Here are a few ways in which walking helps reduce anxiety and stress:
Increases the brain’s coping skills:
Research shows that people who are physically active have a reduced risk of anxiety and depression because physical activity may increase the brain’s capability to cope with stress.
Gives the amygdala a break:
The brain’s ability to manage anxiety and decision-making is controlled by the amygdala; this common controller often makes people anxious and stressed when faced with important decisions. Since the amygdala can only perform one task at a time, a physical activity like walking can give it a break from processing anxiety-causing thoughts.
Uses Nature as a Calming Agent:
Where you walk can also be a factor. Various Japanese studies have shown that walking in nature could be most beneficial because trees are known to emit aerosols that may have a calming effect.
Increases the production of hormones:
Walking could enhance the production of endorphins, which relieve the symptoms of mild depression and reduce stress hormones. Also, when the brain is in awe of something, a beautiful trail, for instance, it produces more oxytocin, the “bonding hormone.” This may improve your social life, eventually leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
Isn’t this information enough to get you walking? Regardless of where you walk or how long you walk, make sure you do it as much as possible. Not only will walking keep you physically healthy, it will also help you stay focused and calm as you brave everyday challenges.
Exercise for Stress and Anxiety. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
O. (2013, April 03). 5 Ways Walking Helps To Relieve Stress. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/national-walking-day-stress-relief-tips_n_2992972.html
Loewe, E. (2018, May 29). The Simple Exercise That Could Help Calm Anxiety, According To Science. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/why-walking-is-the-answer-to-anxiety