Exercise and physical activity has been shown to have great psychological benefits, and most likely this is nothing new to you.
However, due to a busy life and natural changes in our physical ability we may not find time or feel too exhausted to engage in a strenuous workout.
A simple solution is to go for a brisk walk. Walking is pleasurable for most people, it isn’t excessively demanding, and it’s a form of exercise that can be engaged in often and without guidance.
Walking won’t necessarily offer the same extent of physical benefits related to strength, but nonetheless, be open to the psychological benefits of walking.
I have incorporated this valuable activity into my life ever since getting a dog. When the weather permits, I enjoy waking up to the sun rising and going for a walk. I really try to admire the smell of morning dew, the sound of trees rustling and birds chirping, and watching for wildlife along the way.
I still engage in more strenuous exercise, but this is a wonderful way to start off the morning. Walking outdoors in nature, as you’ll read momentarily, offers wonderful psychological benefits.
Research from the most recent issue of Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being reports that walking in general increased positive affect and reduced negative affect for the sample in this study.
As well, the research goes on to explore specific mediating factors that influence the psychological benefits of walking.
In particular the influence of an outdoor environment and company of others was examined in relationship to the psychological benefits of walking.. The researchers examined measures of revitalization, tranquility, time pressure, depression, anxiety and physical exhaustion, among others, and how these related to the mediating factors of walking. Overall, walking in general decreased anxiety and depression, and increased revitalization, positive engagement and tranquility.
When considering environmental influence, it was found that exercise in a natural environment like a park offers a distinct advantage over more urban areas. It appears that nature can have a more calming and relaxing influence, as it alleviates the many external distraction of urban life.
Specifically the environment moderated the impact of time pressure, with this measure decreasing significantly more with walks in the park. While in nature people seem to be able to remain more in the moment and less rushed and pressured.
In regards to having a companion while walking, when in an urban setting having a companion to walk with was more pleasing and uplifting for mood. However, when walking in nature being alone was more beneficial. If you are going to walk with a friend, a more urbanized area would offer greater psychological value for this experience. While in nature, you may be better off walking alone. Being alone offers us a chance for quiet mediation and contemplation, and we are able to take a moment away from the fast paced routine and environment we may be surrounded with otherwise.
Staying physically active is good for our mental and physical health, and if you don’t have a current exercise routine or motivation to work out vigorously, walking offers a very simple solution. Give it a try and see how you feel, but just be aware that if you walk outdoors, you will reap greater benefits psychological.
Photo credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto