This post contains affiliate links to help you make walking for mental health part of your self-care routine
Many people talk about walking to help burn calories and fat, improve their heart health and overall physical health, but don’t forget it is amazing for your mental health as well. Here are some ways you can actually improve your mental health just by walking.
It Helps to Release Endorphins
First of all, any form of exercise is going to help release endorphins, which are the happy chemicals in your brain. When you walk, you almost instantly start feeling happy and feel a weight come off your shoulders.
This does depend on the type of walking you are doing. While more strenuous workouts are also great for releasing endorphins, the experience during the workout can be a little different. You might find that for walking, you prefer to keep it calm and relaxing, and save the higher intensity workouts for other forms of exercise.
You Can Boost Your Energy
One of the best benefits of walking is that you will also get a wonderful burst of natural energy when you start walking on a regular basis. This energy is great to have early in the morning if you are someone who walks during your morning routine. You can even skip your coffee or reduce your caffeine in general, since you get natural energy just from moving your body.
This energy boost is amazing for your mental health as well. You often feel healthy and productive, helping you to relieve stress and get things done. For anxiety, it is great because without all that caffeine, you are actually helping to reduce some of your anxiety symptoms.
Walking to Relieve Stress
If you are dealing with a lot of emotional stress in your life, walking for mental health can be a godsend. Every time you walk, you not only release those endorphins, but you have a mini therapy session with yourself. Walking for mental health can be almost a cathartic experience, where you focus more on your breathing, enjoy the sights if you walk outside, and feel more peaceful.
Walking For Mental Health to Help with Anxiety
Many people have also found walking for mental health to help with their anxious feelings. This works in a number of different ways. First of all, as we mentioned, when you boost your energy with walking, you can skip the caffeine that tends to make your anxiety worse. But, that’s not the only way it helps.
You might also find that when you are walking for mental health, you begin to relax. The anxiety or panic you were feeling before starts to dissipate. Remember to walk only in places that don’t trigger panic. If you are someone who gets a lot of anxiety being around groups of people, walk at home on a treadmill or find a quiet place to walk, like a park or the beach.
Benefits of Walking in the Morning
A common question people ask when they are considering starting a new exercise routine is when the best time to workout would be. If you are choosing walking as your main form of exercise, there are definitely some unique benefits to doing it in the morning.
You Get it Out of the Way First Thing
Who wants to stress all day about the workout you need to do in the evening? Get your walk out of the way in the morning, and the rest of your day’s schedule is completely up to you. The hardest part is definitely having to wake up a little earlier in the morning than you normally would, but you get used to this in time. What you get back is the ability to do your workout first thing in the morning, and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
If you are someone who tends to get anxious when you have a lot of things to do during the day, and tend to dread some of them, then this is going to be especially beneficial for you.
It Boosts Your Energy for the Entire Day
Another reason to walk in the morning is to get a boost of natural energy in the morning, that can even prevent you from needing caffeine. It can seem counterintuitive, since you are getting energy by exerting energy, but trust us, it works!
Once you get moving and finish your walk, then take a shower and get ready for the day, suddenly you have so much energy. You tend to get more done, are much more productive, and just feel better. Between the boost in energy and better mood, you just might want to add walking to your daily morning routine.
You Can Burn More Calories
When you get your exercise done in the morning, it helps to raise your metabolism, helping you to continue burning fat and calories throughout the day. This is great because you don’t have to spend hours in the gym if you want to lose a little weight. Just get your walking and other exercise routines done in the morning, and you are going to get this unique benefit.
It Helps to Improve Your Mood
If you tend to be a little grumpy in the morning, you can become a more happy and cheerful person just by exercising in the morning. Not only does it give you an energy boost, but it helps you to feel better as well. Don’t skip exercise on mornings where you are angry or frustrated – try to just walk for a few minutes if you can, then a little longer if you feel up to it. It is the best thing you can do for yourself when you aren’t feeling your best.
Benefits of Walking in the Evening
Are you starting a new walking routine and trying to choose between mornings or evenings? Here are some reasons why you might want to walk near the end of your day.
Friends or Family Can Join You
When you save your walking for the afternoon or evening, it tends to be easier to have others join in. It can be a lot more motivating when you aren’t walking alone, especially if you choose to walk outdoors, go on a hike, or find a nearby beach or park for the scenery.
You can have friends walk with you after work, or bring your dogs and kids on an evening walk around the neighborhood after dinner. You may find that you don’t even mind the walk when you have others to chat with on the way.
It Helps You Sleep Better
Many people have also found that when they walk in the evening a few hours before bedtime, they sleep much better. Try experimenting for just a few days and see if walking near the end of your day helps you sleep at all. You can still a morning workout if you want, such as doing yoga in the morning or some simple stretching, then save your walking and other cardio for the evening. That way, you get both benefits.
Your Muscles are More Flexible
When you walk first thing in the morning, your muscles and body is stiff, making it hard to get moving without a long stretch first. However, by the end of the day, you have been moving your body all day, so your muscles are warm and flexible.
This makes it much easier to just start walking right away when you’re ready in the evening, without needing a long stretch or warm up. Another benefit is that you won’t feel as many cramps or have a hard time getting started since your muscles are more than ready to go by this point.
Walking For Mental Health Relieves Stress and Worry from the Day
Walking for mental health is a great way to release endorphins and put you in a better mood. If you have had a stressful day with the kids, had a fight with a friend, or stress from work, walking in the evening can help tremendously.
Think about it like a form of self-care, not a form of exercise. A way you can have a little time to yourself, unwind, and move your body. You know it is good for your physical health regardless, but in this way, it is great for your mental health as well. You are doing something amazing for yourself, and working to get those endorphins so the rest of your night you are in a stress-free and happy mood.
How to Stay Motivated with Your Walking Journey
Any time you start something new, it can be easy to motivated in the beginning, but that might soon fade. If you know you want to keep walking on a regular basis to improve your health, here are some tips to help you stay motivated.
Create a Challenge or Goal
If you just start walking for mental health without a clear goal, it is going to be very difficult to keep it up. Try starting a walking challenge, or just set a goal where you want to walk a certain number of steps or a specific number of days during the week.
This doesn’t have to be a big challenge or a goal that will be really difficult to complete. You still want to start your journey slow and steady, even for just walking every day. Maybe think of a goal that will keep you motivated, but is a little more than you are walking now.
If you wear your fitness tracker for a few days and find that on average, you walk about 4,500 steps a day, then try to set a goal of walking 6,000 steps a day. It gets you moving more and keeps you motivated, but isn’t so crazy that you feel burnt out.
Find a Friend to Walk With
Walking can be boring for some people, even when you do have music or podcasts to listen to. If this is something you personally struggle with, don’t walk alone! Find a friend or relative who might want to join you.
Do you do your walking on your lunch break? This is the perfect time to grab a co-worker to walk with you. Maybe you want to walk in the evening after dinner and bring your spouse, roommates, or kids along with you, or you find a neighbor who also wants to talk early in the morning.
Understand Your Motivations
What is the reason you want to start a new walking routine? Be really clear on your motivations. If you are doing it just because you read a short article about the benefits, that isn’t going to help keep you motivated long-term. You need clear reasons about why walking for mental health is for you. Write them down and keep them somewhere you can reference them whenever you need to.
Get New Fitness Gear You Love
Believe it or not, just having new gear to use or workout clothing to wear can be really motivating to walk more. Who doesn’t want to wear new fitness clothing they just bought? It’s just like when you buy any other new clothes – you can’t wait to wear them.
See if buying new fitness gear fits into your current budget, and you will suddenly love going on your daily walk just so you can wear it. In addition to clothing, some other gear that you can get includes:
Ear buds to listen to music or podcasts
Turn Walking into Your Self-Care Routine
Don’t treat walking for mental health just like a way to get in more fitness, as that motivation can wane pretty fast. Instead, think of it as a way to get more self-care in for yourself. You are doing this as a way to treat yourself well and take a break from the rest of your life. It is good for your mental and physical health, and fits perfectly in with your self-care routine.