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5 Ways Walking Helps Relieve Stress

Can You Conquer Stress by Taking a Walk?

Most people know that walking promotes better physical health. On the other hand, many people are surprised to learn they can enjoy significant mental health benefits by going for regular strolls. Here's how walking helps relieve stress both physically and mentally.


  1. It alters brain function. According to a Princeton study appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, physical activity - like walking - inhibits stress-induced activation of granule neurons , while enhancing local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. While this explanation is likely to confuse you, it simply means that exercise reorganizes the brain, so anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function. Researchers say this is an example of the brain modifying itself in response to environmental stimuli.
  2. It spurs creativity. Many times, people experience stress related to career challenges and work responsibilities. If a big project is keeping you up late at night, a brisk walk could lead to a solution. According to a Stanford study, walking improves creative thinking . What's more, this improvement persists for a lengthy period of time after we quit walking. Profiled in a recent TED Talk, this revelation suggests that it may be a good idea to take a quick walk before sitting down to tackle a challenging work project.
  3. It aids meditation. Many people find that the simple act of walking can put them in a meditative state. According to research, this effect is maximized when we walk through natural green spaces . Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study found that parks served as mood-enhancing environments, especially in urban settings, where people are surrounded by buildings, vehicles and noise. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, consider going for a stroll among trees or open green grass. While you are walking, pay attention to the natural world, and try not to think about the source of your stress if possible.
  4. It boosts energy. Stress can sap our energy, making it even more difficult to cope. According to a study out University of Georgia, walking and other low-intensity exercise can help with this by boosting energy levels by about 20 percent and reducing fatigue by 65 percent. When stress has you feeling exhausted, it's not always easy to convince yourself to get up and get moving. Many times, however, this is exactly what you need. Instead of sitting in front of the television, try to force yourself to take a 20-minute walk.
  5. It promotes sleep. Countless studies have linked sleep deprivation to anxiety, stress, depression and low mood. Unfortunately, when we they are stressed, many people tend to suffer from insomnia and frequent waking. This can create a vicious cycle, which can promote long-term stress issues that lead to nervous breakdowns. According to research, you may be able to break the cycle by going for regular walks. A Japanese study found that walking can boost sleep quality , especially among people without regular exercise habits.


Sadly, there is significant evidence that both stress and sleep issues lead to long-term health problems. Research has also shown that stress can drastically shorten a person's lifespan by causing actual damage to DNA. By taking regular walks, you can improve the way your body responds to stress, while enhancing sleep quality and overall well-being. To get the most benefit, however, it's important to stay mindful while you are walking. This means paying attention to your surroundings, instead of ruminating about work and other issues that are causing your anxiety or stress.


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