Walk Your Way To A Better Place

Do you have a feeling that you’re not your best self? Physically, mentally, emotionally — these all make up what we could define the ‘self’. Have you considered that some exercise might be a good first step? Did you know that exercise can also help your mental health and self-worth?

Regardless of your age or fitness level, it’s never too late to start walking and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits.

Walking is one of the more gentle and peaceful ways to exercise and can be wonderfully social too. Just 30 minutes of walking every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some types of cancer.

But did you know walking just 30 minutes a day can also improve your mental health?

According to The MindShift Foundation’s Clinical Psychologist Dr Lars Madsen, “The mental health benefits of going for a good walk are wide-ranging. These benefits, combined with walking in a group, is an effective tool for promoting emotional well-being as it encourages interaction, social engagement as well as physical activity. Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise, and combined with nature and a group setting, it is a very powerful, under-utilised stress buster.”

Walking is low impact, can be done at any time of day and conducted at your own pace. You can get out and walk without the risks associated with more vigorous forms of exercise. Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven’t exercised in a long time.

Here are some great reasons that walking will help create and maintain a healthy mind.

  1. Reduces Stress. One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is stress relief, as exercise increases concentrations of brain chemicals that moderate our response to stress.
  2. Boosts ‘feel good’ Chemicals. Exercise releases endorphins which create feelings of happiness and euphoria.
  3. Alleviates Anxiety. The chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety maintain their sense of calm.
  4. Increases Relaxation. A moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia.

5. Improves Self-Worth. Physical fitness can boost self-worth and improve your self-image in a positive and active way.

Walking is one of the best non-drug related ways to assist in controlling mental health conditions. Something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group will not only improve someone’s positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression. Research confirms the benefits of walking as a way to improve and maintain our overall health, both mental and physical, and it’s easier to get fitter in the body, mind and spirit when we walk with someone else.

When we take full advantage of the benefits of exercise we can also encourage those around us to do the same. When was the last time you went for a walk with your family?

Walking for at least 30 minutes a day is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health, and walk your way towards wellness. Keeping physically active is your key to a healthy lifestyle, but remember it’s always best to check with your doctor before you start any form of exercise.

Elizabeth Venzin is the Founder and CEO of the Australian Not-for-Profit Organisation The MindShift Foundation. Resources about preventative mental health can be found on the MindShift website www.mindshift.org.au

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