Mental Health Benefits of Walking and Trekking: Six Things That You Should Know

14 Apr 2020

By the Wild Women On Top Coastrek Team

Many of us are spending more time inside than normal, due to the spread of COVID-19. But there are still a handful of reasons we’re allowed to go outside and one of them is to exercise. Why? Because there are so many scientifically proven benefits to moving your body.

Those include physical benefits, like reducing your risk of chronic disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing resting heart rate, and improving sleep. But there are also a range of mental health benefits to walking. And right now, we could all use a little boost in our mental wellbeing.

The mental health benefits of walking are mindblowing. Here’s what you should know.

Walking makes you happy

In isolation, I’ve spent hours sitting at my desk. By around lunchtime, I start feeling a little ‘bleh’. My brain starts getting foggy, my eyes blur, and I start feeling tired and lethargic. So, at lunchtime every day, I get off my computer and I go for a walk around my suburb, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the smells and sights that I once took for granted.

After about half an hour, I feel brighter, lighter and better. One of the mental health benefits of walking is that it's been proven to make you happy! We feel joy when we’re active because our body releases endorphins and happy hormones!

It reduces stress

The spread of COVID-19 has made many of us more stressed. The fear of illness, a panicked 24-hour news cycle, unemployment, a lack of routine and an inability to see friends and family will contribute to feelings of stress.

One of the perfect elixirs to this extra stress is walking! A proven mental health benefit of trekking or walking is reducing stress. 

Studies have shown walking can do more than reducing stress. One study notes walking just 30 minutes a day can reduce your chance of getting some mental health conditions by up to 50%.

It improves productivity

If you’re working from home and you’re looking for easy, simple and achievable ways to boost your productivity, going for a walk is a great solution. One of the mental health benefits of walking is a boost in productivity.

A study done by Stanford University found that people who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the university campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.

So, if you’re getting that cabin fever, that 3pm fuzz, or that lunchtime blur, head outside to get your blood pumping and your body moving. Your brain – and your boss – will thank you for it!

It boosts brain performance

Walking also has significant benefits for your brain cognition.

Recent studies, highlighted in the New York Times, show walking in nature has great health benefits including increased memory performance, decreased anxiety and reduced brooding. Walking in nature, even for short periods of time, has been proven to enhance cognition, working memory and creativity.

This can be beneficial if you're working from home, home-schooling your kids, studying, learning a new language or starting a new business.

So lace up your walking shoes and get outside. It’ll do wonders for your brain’s performance.

It increases positivity

Another health benefit to walking is that it increases feelings of positivity. 2020 has been a challenging year for many of us, with smoke-filled skies, fire emergencies, floods, global pandemics, and job loss.

So finding reasons to stay positive in the current climate is super important. And walking can help us do this too.

Studies show walking can help reduce brooding – a state which can result in feeling negative about the world around us. Going for a walk has the affect of increasing feelings of positivity.

It actually changes the brain

Seriously. One of the amazing mental health benefits of trekking or walking, is that it literally changes your brain. One study revealed walking for up to 90 minutes in nature led to a decrease in self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

The same study showed that experiences in nature can act to improve mental wellbeing and even suggested accessing natural areas in urban cities can be crucial for managing mental health.

Going for a walk is one of the best things you can do for your mental health and wellbeing. Science has shown, time and time again, that there are many incredible health benefits of walking. Walking improves your mood, productivity, physical and mental health, memory, sleep and sex drive. It reduces stress, lethargy and cognitive decline and can be used to treat anxiety and depression with no negative side effects.

We will be doing ourselves and our families a big favour by getting outside for a walk every day, making sure we practice social distancing and proper hygiene.

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