Walking is a very versatile exercise. It can be vigorous, aerobic and demanding, or gentle, meditative and relaxing. It can be a great form of exercise for physical health and fitness, especially when the more energetic forms of walking are chosen, but both fast and slow walks can work wonders for mental health.
A person needs to discover what type and speed of walk is best for their particular mental health problem. Many people find that their mood improves after a brisk or a physically demanding walk. Hiking on a mountain trail or over rough terrain, hill or stair climbing, power walking, race walking or fast walking can all be challenging and leave a person with a sense of accomplishment and in a happier state of mind. Problems may not seem so serious, or a person may feel more determined and hopeful about dealing with a problem. Worry, stress and anger are reduced. In addition, some people enjoy having a goal to work towards, such as a competitive walking event or a walk for charity.
On the other hand, a slow walk observing nature or the neighborhood can leave a person feeling peaceful, content and in touch with the world. Walking can also be a spiritual activity and can be used for meditation. Researchers have found that even slow walks have mental and physical health benefits. Exploring a new place by walking can be very interesting and stimulating, relieves boredom, and takes a person’s mind off any difficult situation that they are facing. Walking also boosts creativity. Someone may think of solutions to a problem that has been worrying them while on a walk, or think of new ideas or new projects to do. A social walk with friends is also a fun activity.
Getting in shape and losing weight, if this is necessary, will make a person feel better, and will improve the functioning of the immune system so that it’s easier for the body to fight infections and deal with health problems. Walking has been found to to improve memory and also reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Improving physical health can benefit mental health as well.
A neighborhood walk only requires suitable shoes for walking – nothing fancy – and rain protection if it’s wet or warm clothing if it’s cold. Walking is a free activity, which is great if money is a problem. Some forms of walking, such as nordic walking (walking with poles) or hiking, will require buying special equipment like walking poles or hiking shoes or boots, but in general, to benefit from and enjoy walking, all you need is clothing and shoes that you probably already have in your home.
Walking is a great help for the mental health problems that we all experience at some time, such as temporary depression, worry or anger. However, make sure that you seek medical help if you are suffering from severe or prolonged depression or another serious mental health problem. Walking will be a great addition to whatever other treatment your doctor suggests.