Did you know April is Stress Awareness Month? It also happens that yesterday was National Walking Day and tomorrow (5th April) is Walk to Work Day. Walk to Work Day aims to highlight how adding a little more time to your morning routine can lead to a more efficient life overall. We’re the generation of sedentary lifestyles. We drive/get the bus to work, sit in front of a screen all day, and then drive/get the bus home where we sit in front of a screen for the rest of the evening. The benefits of walking are endless. Not only does it reduce your carbon footprint and aid your physical health, but it also helps reduce stress and improve your mental health.
The benefits of walking to fight stress
It’s common knowledge that exercising improves your mood, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that you don’t need to bust a gut and be dripping in sweat to reap those benefits.
The benefits of walking are endless, and in honour of Stress Awareness Month and Walk to Work Day, I’ve compiled a list of ways you can walk off your stress. Whether it’s a slow stroll with friends or a brisk power-walk around the block, making walking a part of your daily routine can reduce tension and promote feelings of calm.
1. It gives you the chance to get out of your own head
Most of the time when we’re stress, our minds have a tendency to over-think the things that cause us to be stressed. Getting up and taking a walk allows you to observe the environment around you and find distractions. If a walk among the trees doesn’t strike you as inviting, then theres always a shopping centre or city streets to occupy your mind.
2. Being outside reduces your stress levels
I mentioned the trees. Spending time among nature has been linked to stress reduction and a number of studies have confirmed this. One study found that people’s stress levels were directly related to the amount of green space around them; those surrounded by more greenery were found to be less stressed. The benefits of walking through nature also improve your memory and attention span so if you ever find yourself in a stress spiral or stuck in a rut, then grab your walking shoes and become one with nature.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body as well as reducing stress hormones and alleviate mild depression. Endorphins also get released during a brisk-walk, hence contributing to lowering your stress levels.
4. Walking boosts energy and reduces fatigue
If there’s one thing that’s surprising in this world, it’s that sitting at a desk all day is exhausting. As the week goes on your energy levels diminish and you’re beyond tired. According to a 2008 study, individuals with sedentary lifestyles experienced a significant boost in energy (20 percent) and a 65 percent reduction in fatigue after following exercise programs centered around walking. Taking regular 20-30 minute walks several times a week can alleviate stress and give your mind a boost.
5. Gives yourself a break
Sometimes we need to put a physical and mental distance from the environment that may be causing us stress. Let’s say you’re at work and everything is going wrong and you feel like you’re spiralling, a walk on your lunch break will work wonders. You’ll experience all the benefits mentioned above, and it will force you to actually take a break from your day, enabling you to go back and do what needs to be done.
The benefits of walking for your health
We can’t ignore the benefits walking has on your physical health. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise meaning that you carry your own weight as you go. It can reduced your risk of heart disease and stroke as well as improve management of conditions like high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness. You’ll also sleep better at night if your day involves a significant amount of walking. This will in turn help improve your mood because we all know everything feels worse when you’re tired. Walking for at least half an hour a day can also burn up to 300 calories, depending on your level on intensity. So, it’ll start to burn off those calories you consumed during your stress-eating session.
Tips to incorporate more walking into your daily routine
- Always take the stairs. If it makes it easier, pretend we live in a world where lifts/elevators don’t exist. (Obviously if you’ve got heavy boxes in your hands then lifts exist in this instance)
- If you live far away from where you work then get off the bus a few stops earlier or park a bit further away from work. This will give you the chance to get a few steps in before you start your working day
- Step out on your lunch break. This will give you a chance to get some fresh air, clear your head from a busy morning, and up those steps
- Get a Fitbit or pedometer so you can set yourself step goals to motivate yourself to move
- Leave the car at home for short journeys
- Listen to music, it’ll give you a beat to walk to and pump those endorphins even more!
- Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes so you don’t have an excuse to cut it short