Take a Step Outside - The Mental Health Benefits to Walking

Updated: Jan 30

Society is generally aware of the increasing presence of social media in our everyday lives. College students rely heavily on their devices to get them through school. Additionally, young people are using screen time in more areas of their life including both entertainment and work. According to a 2016 study by Nielsen Total Audience Report, most Americans spend more than 10 hours a day on their screens. This number has only increased since the start of the pandemic. It is crucial for young people to be introduced to the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Spending time outside in nature is proven to reduce stress and improve overall health. It is proven to have a lasting effect on people from a young age. This is important to be aware of because so many young teenagers and college students aren’t aware of the lasting effects of being on their screens all day. They need to be aware of alternative ways to spend their time. Spending time walking or exercising of some sort outside can be a great way for young people to find a routine and take time for themselves.

A good walk can have many benefits for your health. But it’s not just about the one-time good feeling it produces. Being active and getting outside of your normal routine has an entire range of benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing. It improves self-perception and self-esteem, boosts the quality of sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Focusing on the well-being of your mental health is increasingly important, as it affects how we think, make decisions and handle our stress. Mental health is important at every stage of our life.

A recent study from Stanford University found that only 12 minutes of walking per day increased feelings of happiness, self-confidence, and mindfulness. Although it was more effectively boosted during walks in nature, any form of walking was still proven to have impacts. Daily walking has numerous benefits, but one of the most beneficial is the mental health aspects of it. The same study also found that taking a daily walk increase creative output or "divergent thinking" by 60%. They explained that taking a daily walk creates a free flow in your brain for ideas and while it's good physical activity, the creative stimulation is also a major benefit. According to WebMd, walking helps boost your mood because it increases blood flow and blood circulation to the brain and body. This has a positive influence on your central response nervous system which in turn has influence on your stress response. We recommend inviting friends while you walk as it makes it more fun, will keep you motivated and will increase the chances you continue to. Lastly, according to WebMd, combining positive social interactions and exercise can improve negative moods, ward off depression, and improve self-esteem. Try to walk 2-3 days a week for 15-30 minutes at a time.

As depression, anxiety, and general feelings of unhappiness become increasingly more common among college students, mental health has become a major topic of discussion. Although there are many resources and ways to combat mental health, the benefits of exercise are undeniable. Creating various exercise campaigns throughout universities is a critical next step in assisting college students with their mental health. Just taking one walk per day could vastly improve happiness, self confidence, and reduce overall mental health issues. Skip taking the bus on a warm day and leave a little earlier for class. Treat yourself to a coffee and walk to the closest coffee shop. Or, throw in some music and just take a walk around your neighborhood. The important part is simply getting outside.


Sources:

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-walking-most-underrated-form-exercise-ncna797271

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/mental-benefits-of-walking#:~:text=The%20Benefits%20of%20Walking,-There%20are%20numerous&text=Walking%20helps%20boost%20your%20mood,to%20the%20brain%20and%20body.&text=Physical%20exercise%20combined%20with%20positive,30%20minutes%20at%20a%20time.

https://www.health.com/fitness/walking-workouts-fitness-experts

https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/get-walking/why-walk/healthy-minds

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