Tag Archives: Walking

Walk Your Way to a Healthy Mood

WalkHealthyMoodSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor



Increasingly, walking is considered an essential form of exercise to reduce chronic disease risk, manage weight and support optimal health. Whether one walks for recreation, transportation or increased fitness, walking can be adjusted to suit individual needs, preferences, abilities and schedules. Walking is a simple, natural and inexpensive form of exercise. It requires no special skills nor equipment other than a pair of supportive footwear. The benefits of physical activity depend on intensity, duration and frequency. As such, the American Heart Association guidelines recommend that able-bodied adults participate in moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, for a minimum of 30 minutes daily five days per week. Similar to other forms of moderate intensity exercise like swimming, cycling or dancing, walking not only improves a realm of cardiac risk factors, including vascular stiffness, obesity, inflammation and blood pressure; it also helps protect against dementia and depression.

In addition to all the physical benefits of a daily walk, there are very real and immediate psychological effects as well. Research suggests that many underestimate the extent to which going for a walk positively benefits mood. Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is evidence to suggest that exercise as a behavioral intervention has shown great promise in alleviating symptoms of depression. Research has also shown that those who are depressed are less physically fit, which in turn contributes to other physical health problems associated with sedentary behavior. An overwhelming majority of studies have confirmed the efficacy of exercise on improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression. Research also suggests that the benefits of exercise participation have long lasting effects. However, consistent moderate intensity exercise has proven to be most beneficial.

Studies have shown that regular walkers who self-assessed their overall health reported that they had improved their diets, felt more energetic and highly rated their overall mood, happiness and self-esteem. Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety and negative mood and enhancing cognitive function and self-worth. A study by psychologists at Iowa State University found that even when the benefits typically associated with exercise research, such as fresh air, nature, social contact and the expectation of improved heath were disregarded, walking in and of itself proved to be a powerful mood lifter. The researchers argued that positive emotions are closely linked with movement, as humans evolved to move to find sustenance and other rewards.

It appears that though many prefer to sit rather than move, we are happier when we are busy and active. Those who avoid exercise because they are not sure where to start should know that just getting out for a walk can make a meaningful difference in mental and physical health. When you’re feeling disengaged or sluggish, a brisk 10 minute walk can be energizing, uplifting and refreshing. It’s well established that aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health. As a highly metabolic organ, the brain requires good blood flow to deliver necessary oxygen and nutrients. During exercise, blood vessels dilate allowing blood flow throughout the body to dramatically increase. Improved blood flow and reduced blood pressure are both associated with improved cognitive function. The effects of exercise are also linked to improved executive functions such as planning, thinking and judgment.

While high intensity exercise releases feel good brain chemicals, there is value in lower intensity exercise sustained long term. Regular physical activity prompts the release of proteins known as neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and form new connections. Nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, the region that regulates mood, helps to alleviate depression over time. Evidence-based health benefits of regular exercise include improved sleep, better endurance, stress relief, increased energy and stamina, weight reduction, and improved cardiovascular fitness, as well as mood enhancement and increased mental alertness.

Walking: Your steps to health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health
Walking may be one of the simplest ways to boost your mood. https://www.businessinsider.com/walking-improves-mood-2016-10
Exercise for Mental Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/
Walking Can Lift Your Mood Even When You Don’t Expect It to. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201608/walking-can-lift-your-mood-even-when-you-dont-expect-it
Regular Walking Can Help Ease Depression. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/regular-walking-can-help-ease-depression/
Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression


Walk This Way

WalkThisWaySusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor



Recent controversial news reports have stated that exercising to promote weight loss is a misconception. Many physically active people and medical professionals beg to differ. It’s true that exercise in the presence of unlimited, unrestricted calories will not promote weight loss. However, we can’t rule out the benefits of regular exercise in relation to weight loss and maintenance of normal weight when combined with a reduced calorie, healthy and nutritious diet. In addition to burning calories, toning muscles and reducing body fat, participation in regular moderate physical activity improves overall wellbeing, aids digestion, improves mood and reduces the risk of just about everything, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer and other preventable diseases. For many of us, weight loss or weight maintenance may be the primary goal of exercise. However, disease prevention should also be at the top of the list.

Though weight loss strategies abound, most don’t work long term. Crash dieting or drastic caloric restrictions may help you lose weight but it won’t help you to maintain that weight loss. Quick weight loss generally results in quick weight regain. The most effective way to lose weight long term is to cut back on unhealthy high calorie, low nutrient foods and instead fill up on whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense, fiber filled foods that satiate without spiking blood sugar. Add walking to your daily routine and you may lose 10 – 20 pounds in a matter of months, dependent upon your current weight, how much you would like to lose, and your commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise. Walking is one the safest and easiest forms of beneficial physical activity. It’s so easy and accessible really, there’s hardly any excuse not to do it.

Getting started:

Make an assessment of how much you are moving each day. If you are sitting on your commute to work or school, sitting all day at a desk and plopping down on the sofa after dinner every night, you are leading an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle. Most of us walk less than 5,000 steps daily. In order to improve your general health and your weight, 10,000 steps should be the ultimate daily goal. Initially, aim to walk for 20 minutes, three or four times a week. While speed and intensity do lead to more calories burned in a shorter period of time, walking for 30 minutes after dinner at a speed of just three miles per hour will effectively burn calories.

To ramp up weight loss, work toward increasing your speed. Studies have found that women who do three 30-minute high intensity walks and two moderately paced recovery walks each week lose up to six times more abdominal fat and four times more body fat than those who casually stroll five days each week. Gradually increase the pace, frequency and duration of your walks as you become more fit and watch the pounds slowly melt away. To lose ½ pound per week, you need to burn an extra 250 calories each day. To lose 1 pound per week, you need to burn an extra 500 calories daily. In addition, it’s essential that you don’t exceed the recommended caloric intake for your body weight.

Recommended daily caloric intake for women:

Active women: Women who walk more than 3 miles daily or who participate in other comparable physical activity need about 18 calories per pound or about 2,160 calories per day for a 120-pound woman.

Moderately active women: Women who walk 1.5 – 3 miles per day require approximately 16 calories per pound equating to 1,920 daily calories for a 120-pound woman.

Sedentary women: Those who don’t exercise outside of normal day-to-day activities need only 13 calories per pound, which is about 1,560 calories each day for an inactive 120-pound woman.

Overweight women: For successful weight loss, multiply your desirable body weight by 10 to get the approximate number of calories to consume daily.

Proper technique:

As with all sports, posture and body alignment are important – tensed shoulders, bowed head, immobile arms – do not make for a smooth walking glide and can lead to back pain or knee injury. With proper alignment, movement becomes more fluid, while joint discomfort lessens.

  • Relax the neck and shoulders. Lengthen the space between the shoulders and the ears to bring the head into a correct more comfortable position. To keep your neck comfortably in line with the spine, keep the chin up and focus about 10 feet ahead.
  • Bend and relax the arms and let them naturally swing backward and forward. Keep the hands loose and open. Keep the elbows close the body and move the arms in an arc to build upper body strength and burn more calories.
  • Draw your abdominal muscles inward and upward to activate the muscles and maintain good posture.
  • Work towards a longer stride. Plant each food solidly on the ground and roll from the heel, through the ball of the foot, and lastly, push off as you reach the toes.

Walking’s natural motion provides both physical and mental health benefits and is an excellent way to improve your long term health. In addition to eliminating excess body weight, a regular consistent walking routine improves cardiovascular health, increases endurance, tones and strengthens muscles, and balances your state of mind.

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Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/walking/faq-20058345
How to Walk Off 10 Pounds. http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20680533,00.html
Daily Recommended Caloric Intake for Women. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/daily-recommended-caloric-intake-women-6675.html
Walking Weight Loss Tips. http://www.fitnesshealth101.com/fitness/weight-loss/strategies/walking-tips