by Matt Weik
Are you still bingeing on chocolates when feeling low? Time to get up and go for a walk! While it may sound weird, walking can actually boost your mental health and help reduce depression.
With increasing social media demands, long working hours, financial pressure, and poor diet, the rate of depression and anxiety is constantly on the rise. But do you know what the biggest contributing factor is? Inactivity. Yes, poor lifestyle choices can badly affect your mental health.
According to WHO, depression affects more than 264 million people worldwide. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and a leading cause of disability worldwide. It can even lead to suicide.
As per NAMI, in 2020, 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience some sort of mental illness, making up around 21% of adults in the US (around 52.9 million people). Also, in 2020, 1 in 20 adults in the US experience serious mental illness, making up 5.6% of the American adults (around 14.2 million people).
Disclaimer: This article and the information provided are not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is for informational purposes only. If you have or think you have any mental health condition, be sure to speak with your doctor for corrective actions you can take.
Exercise and Mental Health
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “exercise” mentioned? A lean and muscular physique, right? We know that exercise is essential for physical health. But do you know the impact it has on your brain? Well, we often tend to ignore the tremendous benefits it has on mental health. Exercise is equally important for maintaining mental health as it is physical.
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost all forms of exercise help to reduce stress. If you think only exercise done in the gym counts, it’s time to broaden your perspective. Apart from walking, even climbing stairs, carrying heavy shopping bags, washing the car, and cleaning counts. All these activities can be considered exercise and can easily fit into your daily routine quite easily and without even thinking of it as exercise.
Can Walking Help Prevent Depression?
You may not be aware, but walking can make you feel great in more ways than one. It can help you to relieve stress, improve quality sleep, and boost your level of energy. In short, it can help to improve brain function and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It is because while exercising, feel-good hormones are released that create a positive impact on your mood. So, the more you move, the more you feel good.
According to the Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, a 10-minute walk works similar to a 45-minutes workout (taking calories burned out of the equation and strictly looking at it from a mental health perspective). The after-effects don’t last long, but they are notable enough to give you an immediate boost in the mental health department.
Studies suggest that there is a strong connection between exercise and emotional health. And walking can help to reduce depression by improving mobility and lowering the pain level.
According to the New York Times, a 10-minute walk can immediately improve brain function and memory. Also, incorporating walking into your routine can cause long-term positive changes.
So, what’s one of the ways to help reduce depression? Research shows that incorporating a short walk into your daily routine is a great plan. In case you are running short on time, other movements can provide similar results. Just 5-10 minutes of any continuous activity can help to break down the hours of sedentary time and help provide the boost your brain needs to improve how you feel.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that shows how active time spent each day made a difference and not the overall activities done in a single session. So, if you want, you can do 10 minutes of walking five times a day, as it provides the same results as a 50-minute walk. And if you sit at a desk for hours at a time or behind the steering wheel, it is preferable to have short walks spread throughout the day compared to a long session, as it can prove to be just as beneficial.
You Don’t Need to Feel Depressed to Experience the Benefits
While much of this article focused on how to help reduce depression through walking, you don’t need to have any sort of mental health issues in order to take advantage of the benefits. The next time you feel you don’t have the energy, you know what to do. WALK.
Remember, walking will boost your happy hormones and make you feel better. But those feelings will eventually subside. The long-term results from walking cannot be achieved overnight. You need to be consistent enough and start making small improvements if you want to create a positive impact. It may be a bit difficult at the start, but it will be rewarding. All you need to do is literally start putting one foot in front of the other.