Mental health: 10 reasons why walking helps

When you walk, the whole world moves under your feet.  Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash

Walking is long known as a healthy thing to do, mentally as well as physically.

Here are ten reasons why a good walk can be good for mental health.

  1. Endorphins – exercise promotes the production of endorphins in your body.  Endorphins are hormones which reduce pain perception, and enhance positive feeling.

  2. Sleep – physical exercise increases the amount of time you spend in deep sleep, which accelerates the restoration of your body to a healthy state.  The energy restoration in deep sleep helps to prevent tiredness and  exhaustion.  Glucose metabolism in the brain increases, supporting memory and learning.

  3. Immune function – exercise boosts your immune function.  There is a growing body of scientific research into the links between mental health and our immune systems.  For instance, social stress can cause dysfunction in our immune systems, and increased inflammation in the body.  To a degree, exercise may reverse this process.

  4. Confidence  – captivity is known to affect animal behaviour.  For example, social confidence can be reduced in captive animals, as compared with those in the wild.  It seems that being able to move freely increases boldness.  Walking gets you out of the house, and physically expands your territory of influence, potentially building confidence in the process.

  5. Oxygen – exercise increases the capacity of the heart, lungs and blood to transport oxygen.  This effect has been linked to enhanced cognitive capacity.

  6. Neuronal restoration – exercise can boost the generation of nerve cells, and regeneration of proteins, in areas of the brain linked to thinking and problem solving.

  7. Sense of achievement – a walk has a start and a finish.  If your life is starved of a sense of achievement, then a walk can have a positive effect.  Afterwards, you may be able to rest more easily, knowing that you have ‘done something’ with your day.

  8. Movement in company – the simple act of moving in synchrony with another person can enhance feelings of self-esteem and cooperation.  Walking together with another person, therefore, can help the mental health of both parties.

  9. Vitamin D – Vitamin D is generated with the help of sunshine, and is associated with better brain health.  Vitamin D helps to protect neurons, and reduce inflammation, in the nervous system.

  10. Physical perspective – walking gives us a constantly changing physical environment.  This gently stimulates a wide range of sensory systems, through our eyes, ears, olfactory senses, sense of touch, temperature, and proprioceptive faculties (our sense of position and movement).  In other words, walking can give us a total sensory workout.  If our normal environment only gives us narrow sensory input, then walking can help us thrive.
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In summary, walking can make you more positive and less tired, support your brain function, reduce inflammation and stress, increase confidence, give you a sense of achievement, increase self-esteem, and keep your sensory processing in good shape.

I hope this encourages you to get out there.