Amazing benefits of walking for anxiety
Walking can help improve your psychological and mental health. Check out how walking eases your anxiety.
Walking offers some amazing benefits for mental health. It helps boost mood and increase blood flow to the body and brain and offers a regulating resource for anxiety, increasing physical arousal and bodily awareness through movement. Studies have shown that walking, especially when viewing natural areas, improves moods and emotions like tension, anger, fatigue and confusion, while increasing feelings of vigour. Walking provides a low-impact, accessible space to move your body in a way that allows your mind to also move through anxious moments. If walking is not accessible for you, that’s okay. Explore movement that feels best for you and your body, there are no sized fits all approaches, the approach that works for you is the best approach. (Also read: Wondering how many steps per day benefits your health? This is what a new study says )
Popular anxiety therapist, Anna, defined five ways how walking benefits anxiety in her recent Instagram post.
1. Walking can improve mood
Studies have found that a 10-minute bout of brisk walking improved mood state, and there's a good reason. Walking releases endorphins that make you feel good and serve as natural painkillers. These same endorphins help to balance out the adrenaline and cortisol in nerve-wracked systems and promote a host of other health benefits. Endorphins are also known to reduce our stress levels by balancing out adrenaline and cortisol within the body and also promote many health benefits.
2. Walking changes your breathing
Hyperventilation (over-breathing) is a very common symptom for those who experience anxiety. It's commonly expressed as chest tightness, difficulty breathing, dizziness etc. Hyperventilation makes it feel like you're not getting enough oxygen into your body, but this is actually not the case. The feeling that you are not getting enough air into your body is actually caused by expelling too much carbon dioxide.
Your body needs a balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, and when you breathe too rapidly your oxygen levels might outweigh the carbon dioxide. Walking changes the way you breathe, the more you move your body, the more carbon dioxide your body naturally creates. Your body also begins to breathe in a more efficient and optimal way too.
3. Walking provides a healthy distraction
Walking provides a space to distract the mind and connect with your body. When you're walking, there are sensations through your feet and your body, there's intentional attention to the way in which your body is moving, and there are different sensory and environmental inputs for your brain to process. Anxiety can catch your mind in a loop of thoughts, so giving yourself space from those thoughts to attend to and focus on different stimuli can offer space from these thoughts. Research shows that walking through natural areas with greenery, decreased tension anxiety, fatigue & confusion and improved positive mood states and energy.
4. Walking can support healthy sleep
Daily walking has a significant effect on supporting sleep quality and sleep patterns. Studies have shown that sleep disturbances decreased after daily walking and may realign your internal body clock and down-regulate body temperature to support deeper, healthy sleep cycles.
5. Walking provides bilateral stimulation
Bilateral stimulation is stimuli which occur in a rhythmic left-right pattern, such as activities like walking. Studies suggest that bilateral stimulation may help & promote the recall of pleasant memories and offer a tool for emotion regulation, due to the feelings of relaxation that are induced through bilateral stimulation.