Walk Off Stress and Boost Your Emotional Health
We all know about the health benefits of walking, but did you know about the mental health benefits of walking on a regular basis?
Everyone can benefit from walking the grumps away. The best part? Whether you’re a #fitmom or have never worked out a day in your life, walking is something everyone can do. So lace up some comfy shoes – heck, stay in your slippers if you want – and see how a little stroll around the block can put a smile on your face.
Several studies have shown that moderate-intensity walking boosts your mood and can help fight depression. Walking releases feel good chemicals called endorphins. When released, this potent chemical can relieve pain and promote relaxation. Walking on a regular basis could indeed nix that crappy mood and improve your overall happiness! Bonus, you’ll walk off about 225 calories per hour*. Even more when there’s some sort of incline!
*Calories burned based on a 150 pound woman.
Work It Out
You may have heard someone say, “I’ve got to take a walk to clear my head.” Here’s why it works: When we exercise, blood pressure and flow increase everywhere in the body – including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which helps us with problem-solving.
The hippocampus, the part of the brain critical for learning and memory, is also highly active during walking. When the neurons rev up here, our cognitive function improves.
We can see the issue more clearly and come up with solutions while we’re walking. You may find that relationship issues, parenting woes or work-related stress aren’t so overwhelming after a moderate walk.
The wonderful thing about walking is that it’s an activity that’s easy to do. All you need are comfortable and supportive sneakers and a safe place to walk. Even if the only exercise you’ve done lately is walking up or down the stairs to retrieve laundry, you can start today.
If you’re new to walking, start with a 15 minute walk. Stick to a flat surface and save the hills for when you’ve acclimated to walking longer. Evaluate how you feel right after your walk and the morning after. If that seemed too short and you had energy to spare, then add more walking time the next day.
A gentle warm up will not only help prevent soreness but also put you in the can-do mindset.
- Ankle Circles: Standing on one foot, lift the other leg off the ground in front of you. (Use a wall or chair if you need help with balance.) Slowly make circles with the toes. Do 5 clockwise circles, then 5 counter clockwise. Repeat on other ankle.
- Heel Raises: Stand with your feet a few inches apart. Rest hands on a chair, if necessary. Slowly raise your heels off the ground, keeping your knees straight. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
- Hula Swings: Stand with your hands on your hips, feet are hip-width distance apart and knees slightly bent. Slowly, make a circle with your hips, as if you were hula hooping in slow motion. Do 10 reps clockwise then 10 more counter clockwise.
- Arm Circles: Hold both arms straight out to your sides to form a letter “T.” Slowly make 10 backward circles then 10 forward circles.
Walk This Way
You use 200 muscles every time you take a step. Proper form for walking will make it more enjoyable and help prevent soreness.
- Head: Keep in line with your shoulders so you don’t strain your neck.
- Shoulders: Keep them level, back and relaxed.
- Arms: Close to body and swinging back and forth.
- Hands: Let them curl slightly, but don’t clench.
- Abs: Contract them for support.
- Legs: Move them forward from your hips, not your knees.
- Feet: Strike with your heel, then roll forward to your toes as your opposite heel hits.
Do you like to walk to stay fit and happy? Tell us all about your walking routine in the comments below!