Lack of exercise is associated not only with physical health problems, but also with risk of mental health problems. Increased physical activity (PA) has been recommended for the prevention of cardiovascular disease; however, little is known about the effect of walking on physical and mental health outcomes.
A study was conducted, which included 30 participants who had to accumulate 10,000 steps daily for 12 weeks. Results concluded that each individual showed significantly lower anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and total mood distress scores compared with measurements taken prior to the intervention. Similar to this, Stanford researchers also concluded that walking in nature yields measurable health benefits, with reduced risk of depression being one of their main findings.
The Mayo Clinic explains it best, as they state that “The links between depression, anxiety and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better.” The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym, however it includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.
Certainly running, lifting weights, and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.
As you strive towards reaching your 10,000 steps every day, you will receive many psychological and emotional benefits. It can help you:
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges – even small ones – can boost your self-confidence.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
- Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by indulging in unhealthy habits, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
The South Dakota Psychological Association provides many helpful resources related to this topic. Visit our website for more details!