"An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
Henry David Thoreau
The medical profession, fitness experts, and weight-loss instructors have long extolled the virtues of walking for overall improved health. In addition to burning calories, toning muscle, improving respiration, reducing risk of bone fractures, improving breathing, and increasing energy, medical science has concluded that walking is beneficial to mental health.
After a long workday or a day full of stress, put on comfortable clothes, your walking shoes, and head out for some exercise. As you work up a sweat, you will feel the stress begin to fade. Brisk walking increases the body’s concentration of norepinephrine, which is a moderator for the brain’s response to stress. Walk for at least 30 minutes a few days each week, and let your feet kick stress into the background.
Endorphins are the wonderful elements released by the brain when you exercise. Endorphins give us the fantastic feelings of happiness and euphoria. Walking has been shown to be an effective and beneficial activity for the clinically depressed. Many physicians believe walking and other forms of physical exercise can be as effective in treating depression as antidepressant pills.
Reduce Cognitive Decline
The aging process can cause the brain to shrink, which affects many of its functions. Exercise, wholesome nutrition, and a meditation practice will give the brain an edge to fight cognitive decline that begins after the age of 45. Mindful walking is an excellent exercise option to boost the brain chemicals that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus and promote memory and learning capabilities.
Boost Brainpower and Sharpen Memory
Regular brisk walking can contribute to the production of new brain cells (neurogenesis) and improve brain performance. Fast walking also increases levels of BDNF, which is believed to assist in critical thinking and decision-making. Are you always looking for a word that escapes you? Fast walking can aid vocabulary retention in healthy adults.
Aids Relaxation and Lessens Insomnia
A 30 to 60 minute brisk walk will relax you and raise the body’s core temperature. As the body’s normal temperature is restored within a few hours, you begin to feel sleepy. Go to bed when the feeling comes on.
Before the advent of cars and other forms of transportation, people walked wherever they went, and rarely did anyone suffer from stress-related illnesses. Regular walking is part of a great mental and physical health program.
AnJenette Afridi, MA, ERYT-500, is a pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine, Mindful-Based Strategies, and Creator of INHALE EXHALE SMILE℠ Meditation and Mindfulness Targeted Skills-Based Training. AnJenette is a Lifestyle Medicine Consultant and a Meditation and Mindfulness Master Teacher with 30+ years in private practice. “AJ’s” professional credentials include a Master’s Degree in Psychology (MA) 1997, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (ERYT-500) 2002, American Psychological Association (APA) Member 1996, American College of Lifestyle Medicine Member, Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine Member, and Harvard Medical School CEU’s in Lifestyle Medicine and Mind Body Medicine (Herbert Benson, MD) the last 15 years.
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AnJenette aka AJ has worked with corporations, hospitals, health centers, schools, and private clientele including adults and children. She is often featured at public and private in-person and online events, and she hosts events as well. AJ's warmth, credibility, and energetic sense of humor create an atmosphere that supports expansion, creativity, and abundant possibility.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.