How To Start An Anxiety-Busting Walking Program
How A Short Daily Walk Can Alleviate Anxiety And Depression
Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million people and is one of the most prevalent psychiatric illnesses in North America.
The research is in and put together with thousands of anecdotal accounts, it seems pretty clear that if you suffer from anxiety, you ought to give walking a try.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states …
“Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.”
“Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.”
And while many of the anxiety/exercise studies talked about exercise in general, this ONE statement could be life changing. Why life changing? Almost everyone can walk. It requires NO equipment, no special clothing (though a good pair of walking shoes would be nice), it can be done almost anywhere and at any time.
And here’s my sales pitch …
a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout
“Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.”
What does WALKING do?
What does walking or other exercises do that makes it so effective in relieving anxiety?
- produces mood elevating endorphins
- decreases mental and physical tension
- enhances the feeling of well-being
- increases the levels of neurotransmitters that affect anxiety (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine)
- improves sleep, which in turn elevates mood and a feeling of well-being
- improves self-esteem
- increases levels of social interaction
There are dozens of additional side-effects of walking including reducing hyper-tension and increasing cardiovascular fitness.
How To Start An Anxiety-Busting Walking Program
If you’ve been sitting on your couch for the past several years, start slow. REALLY slow. In your first week just walk around the block ONCE at a moderate rate. Time yourself, it will probably take around five minutes.
Each week add on two more minutes until you reach 10 minutes … then keep on going until you reach 20 minutes.
**IF you’ve already active, start by walking 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.
Once you get to 20 minutes, instead of adding on more minutes, slowly increase your pace. If you walk 20 blocks in your 20 minutes, up the pace until you are walking 25 blocks.
Next add in two sprints. At the 10 minute point, run as fast as you can for a 5 to 10 second burst. Do the same right at the end of your walk … sprint to your door.
Here are some DO NOTs
Don’t carry your phone with you. Leave it at home. If leaving it at home produces more anxiety, then take it with you, but power it OFF.
Don’t plug into music. Just walk, pay attention to breathing in and out. Smile and say HI to everyone you pass. Leave the smile ON your face for a few more seconds. If they have a dog tell the owner that they have a nice dog. Ask the dog’s name and try to remember it for the next time.
Look at the houses or businesses you pass … at the gardens and the dandelions (they ARE flowers). Breath in … “smell” the air. A hot day will smell different than an overcast day. A spring day will smell different than a fall day.
If you start thinking about your problems, put them in a “bubble” and let them float away … start counting sidewalk cracks. Or count your steps.
Forget about the pedometer for now. Just get up to 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.
Is 20 Minutes Good? Or, Do You Want MORE?
Try adding another 10 minute walk at a different time of day.
Next, if you are ready for a challenge, go and purchase a pedometer, a fit bit or other tracking watch. Figure out how many steps you are regularly doing in your twenty minutes. Challenge yourself by adding 1000 more steps. Then challenge yourself with walking faster.
IF any of these “challenges” starts making you feel anxious, STOP. Just walk 20 minutes a day.
From here, there are literally dozens of different things you can do to keep up a mood-elevating walking program.
MORE Walking Fun …
Walking in nature has been proven to be more beneficial than walking on urban streets. See if you can find a park path or river bank path at least once a week. Yes, HUG a tree.
Try Nordic Walking Poles. They exercise your whole body.
Go on a longer hike once a week or once a month.
What about a walking holiday?
Join a walking association such as Volkswalk
Whether you decide to just walk, or whether you decide to experiment with different types programs, just remember …
Keep It Simple. Make It Fun.
WARNING: I am NOT a Doctor. I am NOT giving out medical advice. If you are using drugs to alleviate anxiety, don’t stop until after you start a walking program and definitely not until you talk to your Doctor.
This article was originally published on the Sugar-Free-Zone
Melanie Rockett has been a freelance writer for over 40 years. About 15 years ago she was diagnosed with Diabetes — and began a long journey of discovery. Today she lives a sugar-free life and has lost 120 pounds. Her website Sugar-Free-Zone.com is all about living sugar-free and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
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