The physical health benefits of walking are known to almost everyone. These include increased heart health, reduced risk of cardiovascular disorders, enhanced management of chronic stress-induced diseases like hypertension, diabetes, improved balance/coordination, healthier bones, healthy weight management, and improved muscle strength, etc. In addition to physical health benefits, walking offers numerous mental health benefits as well. This is the reason that many entrepreneurs and businessmen opt for a walk when they need to take an important decision. Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group and an influential magnate, prefers ‘walking business meetings’ over ‘business meetings in a boardroom’ because walking stimulates the brain which helps in making the mind clearer.
Unlike other forms of exercise, walking does not require a fancy gym or expensive tools to be carried out. It can be easily adjusted according to the available opportunities and facilities. One can ‘walk’ while completing house chores while going to the office etc. Interestingly, walking does not consume a huge amount of time and a ‘20 minutes’ walk’ is enough to provide a significant boost to one’s mental health according to experts. Walking induces positive changes in the brain which include increased positive outlook, better problem-solving abilities, a sense of calmness improved memory, and improved cognitive capabilities.
The benefits of meditation in clearing minds have been supported by extensive research. However, many people don’t like to sit in silence for a lot of time. They can employ ‘walking meditation’ as a better alternative because unlike simple meditation, the physical activity of walking will add to physical fitness too. Walking meditation can be accomplished by incorporating certain aspects of meditation on walking. While walking, one should clear one’s mind, focus on breathing, and focus on one’s steps. It has been recommended that if people want to maximize the benefits of walking meditation they should leave their cellphones and other gadgets at home so that they can focus properly.
Waking meditation can help in improving awareness about our bodies. Some people don’t feel connected with their bodies. Walking meditation can help in establishing a connection between mind and body. When we focus on our steps, breathing, posture, etc., we become more aware of how we are carrying ourselves. Focusing on these details can provide us with the necessary information about how we can move with huge comfort. This helps us in accepting our bodies and enjoying a positive in-body experience. Embracing our physical selves is a prominent indicator of mind and vision clarity.
We all have problems and we all carry huge amounts of stress. This stress, if gets prolonged or remains unchecked/unaddressed, can lead us to emotional exhaustion and burnout. Burnout is the complete depletion of our energy that leaves harmful consequences. Walking meditation can help us in getting a break from our internal worries. It helps us in directing our attention and concentration to our environment. It helps us in experiencing nature and getting the best out of our environment. In this way, our mind gets fresher and clearer leading to a better vision. Walking has found to be beneficial in improving divergent thinking which helps people in generating creative ideas with the exploration of multiple possible solutions.
The research found that people over age 60 experienced improvements in their thinking skills when they employed a ‘45 minutes’ walk’ at the pace of 16 miles per minutes on daily basis. This routine of a ‘45 minutes’ walk’ was gradually established in participants with the starting point of a ‘15 minutes’ walk’. The participants who employed walking on a daily basis were found to have a sharper mind as compared to those who did not employ walking. Another study found the memory benefits of walking. Walking reduced the normal age-related shrinkage of the hippocampus in elderly people. Hippocampus has a major role in learning memory. This is why elderly people who commit to walking on a regular basis perform better on memory tasks as compared to others.
Walking also reduces the risk of depression according to research. Also, a 10-minute walk has been found to be equivalent to a 45-minute exercise in alleviating symptoms of anxiety. When we walk, endorphins are released in our body. Endorphins help in boosting mental health, reducing sensitivity to stress, and establishes a state of intense excitement and pleasure. According to a study, a 10-minute walk was enough for women to experience this boost in mood. Having a consistent walking routine can make people feel proud of themselves for accomplishing a daily goal. This consistency help people in establishing consistency in other personal and professional areas of life.
Walking has also offered exceptional benefits in improving self-perception and self-esteem. It has also shown to play its role in enhancing mood and sleep quality both of which are the indicators of improved mental health. Walking provides a sense of control which is necessary to carry out one’s life independently. People who think that their life is controlled by external factors do not play their role to improve it. The sense of control can help them in altering their perception and thus make them take steps for self-improvement. People with internal locus of control take credit for their personal accomplishments as well which improved their morale. They take responsibilities and credit of the consequences. They are courageous enough to accept the happenings.
In conclusion, it is right to say that walking not only offers physical benefits but if offers exceptional mental health benefits as well. A huge amount of research has investigated and supported the notion that walking helps in clearing one’s mind, increasing awareness, increasing self-perception/self-control, reducing stress/mental health issues and improving overall cognitive capabilities. The most successful businessmen of the world could not deny the exceptional role of walking in enhancing effective decision making. Its clinical implications also cannot be overlooked as numerous research has supported its major role in alleviating symptoms of psychological disorders. The connection of mind and body is inevitable. What’s going in mind affects body. Similarly, the happening of the body put a significant impact on the well-being of mind as well.
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