Regardless of who you are, chances are that stress is in your life. Your stress levels may be low or high or somewhere in between, depending on numerous factors. Anyway, you need an easy and reliable way of bringing your stress levels down, you need an easy and reliable way of keeping them down. If you want to reduce your stress levels or keep them down, going for a brisk walk in a park or in the countryside or anywhere safe can do wonders for you. I am going to walk you through why walking for stress reduction can help you to improve your health and well being.
Ideally going for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk each day in a park or in the countryside will do wonders for you. If you can manage to walk on a regular basis for 60 minutes each day, there are other positive health related side benefits. This effect is cumulative, although regular daily walking is encouraged when possible. Of course, if the weather is not great, it may be smarter not to go for the walk. In this case, read a book that you enjoy reading.
If possible and if you are well enough, aim to get doing some brisk walking every day. Clearly, if you have something like the common cold or the flu or something worst, you probably should not be taking brisk walks and may need professional medical attention. Ensure that you wear sensible and appropriate clothing for the physical environments you are walking in. Ensure that you wear visible clothes, so that you are seen by others. This is especially important when visually is not great and other people may not see you clearly. Cyclists have been known to ride into people that they did not see in time, so take the necessary precautions.
I am going to break this down into four main reasons why walking is so useful in the fight against stress. The first point is that walking is good for health reasons. Here I focus on two main areas that are stress related. The second main point is that ‘breaking a sweat’ when brisk walking out in the sunshine is a natural way to get serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that affects well being. Having a good sense of well being is a great way to manage stress. Then we are going to talk around the extra benefits of walking in natural surroundings. Then the last thing we are going to talk around is the idea that walking and ‘unplugging’ can be done together as an additional layer of stress management.
Walking is good for health reasons
There are a few different types of walking. One is just being outside and walking along slowly, the main idea is that being outside in the fresh air is good for you. This is what I call a ‘non-brisk’ walk, where there is much stopping, and having a good look around you. This is good for you. Even better for you if you are up for it is to take a brisk walk of 10 minutes or more.
My understanding is that for every “10 minutes of brisk walking” you do, that helps to keep your mood up for “2 hours”, which very clearly means that as far as I was concerned that “30 minutes of brisk walking” would help to keep your mood up for “6 hours”.
For instance, 15 minutes of daily brisk walking can help to uplift your mind. This is great as an aid to help you to fight stress, anxiety or depression. When your mood is more uplifted, life is usually better for you, and your body defenses are also better and therefore more capable of fighting off infections and the like.
If you do 40 minutes of walking now and again daily, this can help stress levels. This is partially because the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, is reduced.
Cortisol is produced in the ‘fight or flight or freeze’ stress response. In a nutshell, this is great if you meet a tiger and want to get away fast. Today, this stress response is ‘fired up’ too often and if there is too much cortisol in your system, it can interfere with your sleep and other activities.
This can arise if there is too much stress in your body for an extended period of time, like for example if you were looking after an elderly person for a long time without looking after yourself properly. The stress levels in this case, never really return to a normal low level, and they are elevated most of the time, and the person is “on sentry duty” all of the time, with little or no letup.
Walking is a natural way to get serotonin
Serotonin is an important chemical in the brain. It also resides elsewhere in the human body however we are in this discussion mainly focused on serotonin in the brain. Having enough serotonin in the brain is important as it helps to maintain an upbeat mood. Having an upbeat mood is important as an aid to help fight off stress, anxiety and depression.
Breaking a sweat by taking a brisk walk is one way to increase serotonin production in the human body. If you can get a 30 minute a day brisk walk or more, that can help to increase your serotonin levels and in the process improve your stress levels, your mood levels and your sense of well being. Doing this will also produce other brain chemicals eg endorphins. This is all good news to help you to manage your stress levels.
If you can walk briskly when there is sunshine, this is a great way to maintain your serotonin on the high level. The brisk walk when you break into a sweat in the sunlight is a great way to increase serotonin. Serotonin helps you to manage your stress. Remember to get the serotonin, you have to break into a sweat.
Walking in natural surroundings helps to reduce stress levels
At least one study showed that study participants who walked in a natural leafy environment were happier afterwards than the study participants who walked near heavy traffic for the same amount of time. Another study showed that walking in a green environment where there is grass, and trees and fallen leaves is better for well being than walking in a town near motorised traffic.
So if you can and if it clearly safe to, try to walk more often in areas that are more leafy, where there is grass, trees and fallen leaves on the ground. Just don’t slip on the fallen leaves though. 🙂
Walking can be an ‘unplugging experience’ if you switch your mobile phone off
In this world of ours, it is important to be ‘off the grid’ from time to time so that you get a chance to ‘unplug’ and to unwind. Enjoying your “me only time” is a way to unwind and to relax. Walking briskly is a physical activity and if you are focused on the actual walking experience, it can help you to forget for a short period the problems and issues of the day.
Rather than switching the mobile phone off, consider putting the mobile phone into silent mode. That way, when you ‘re-plug’ yourself back in, you can catch up on any important missing calls. I have ex-work colleagues who if they are using company mobile phones, that once they are ‘off-duty’ the mobile phone is turned off. I agree 100% with this approach.
Going for walks: Make It One of Your “Daily” Activities
As you can see, going for regular daily brisk walks has so many benefits that it makes a lot of sense to do as often as practical. You may need to think outside of the box in order to make it a daily activity in your life.
You might opt to add walking to a local shop to buy some bits and pieces instead of driving there and back. If the local shop is a short walk away, it may even be quicker to walk there and back, rather than driving there, finding a place to park, do the shop, and drive back.
You might opt to use public transport to get around, in which case, you will most likely walk as well during those trips.
You might decide during your lunch break, to walk to a local shop to buy a sandwich, then walk to a local park to enjoy your sandwich, eat your sandwich and then walk back to your work place.
As far as I am concerned, anyone that wants to add walking to their daily life can add it to their daily life, assuming of course that they are well enough.
It does of course require some creative thinking. As the benefits of walking are so important, it is important to add walking to your schedule and made it a regular occurance. If you walk in a brisk manner for over 20 to 30 minutes every day for a few months, you will see the benefits for yourself, and you will then continue the habit.
Enjoy your walks.
Here’s The Next Step…
Now I want to turn it over to you assuming that it is ok for you to walk (Check that walking is a good idea for you):
Are you going to start or resume walking most days to see does that help?
If you miss a walking session, let it go, and resume it when you want to.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.