One Step At a Time: Why Taking a Daily Walk Can Ease Anxiety and Stress

It’s no secret that sometimes life can be hard.  Really hard.  And, because all people cope differently with the everyday burdens that it brings, it can be difficult for some to manage their levels of anxiety and stress. When this happens, we tend to withdraw from the world: the less I am out there, the better I feel in here.  The problem with this is that people need other people to feel healthy. People need fresh air.  People need experiences to grow and evolve.  

When not taken seriously, anxiety can contribute to a host of other physical and mental illnesses, like OCD, depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse. It can be managed and lessened with treatment, and various activities–including trekking the great outdoors. It has been proven time and time again the benefits of outside exercise on the mind and body. Not only can it refresh your spirit, but a daily walk can also ease your anxiety in a wholly inspiring way.

The brain on anxiety

Most people think that others with anxiety are “crazy,” or “loud,” not understanding what the afflicted is going through. It is hard to understand the shame and guilt that goes along with having extreme anxiety without first understanding what it actually does to the human mind under times of duress.[1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heal-your-brain/201107/depression-and-anxiety-disorders-damage-your-brain-especially-when]  When stressful situations occur, we worry. While this is completely normal, it becomes a problem when it happens every day–and often.

Elevated stress levels produce hormones like cortisol and adrenaline with the “fight or flight” response. It is true that these are essential hormones and are important sources of fuel, but when they are not used in that way, the excess hormones seep into the bloodstream. Aside from raising blood sugar levels, these hormones can cause a host of other serious physical and mental side effects–and the cycle between anxiety and other co-occurring disorders is perpetuated.

When those with anxiety go without treatment and techniques to heal and manage their symptoms, it may seem like “the norm”–and healing is then pushed away further. Hopelessness, depression, and suicidal thoughts can start to sneak in, and anxiety begins to tighten its grasp. It is crucial that you take the necessary steps toward anxiety treatment in order to prevent the spiral from continuing downward: and a clean pair of socks, a pair of sneakers, and a pedometer can play a major role in helping you climb out of that spiral.

Thirty minutes a day can keep anxiety at bay

Even a walk as short as thirty minutes every day (or as often as possible) can lower your heart rate, ease your anxiety, and relieve your stress–and it can also be quite scenic.[2. http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety]  Just as chronic anxiety and stress release excess hormones that wreak havoc on your physical and mental well-being, exercise (and walking, specifically) releases feel-good endorphins that serve as natural painkillers. These same endorphins help to balance out the adrenaline and cortisol in nerve-wracked systems, and promote a host of other health benefits.

Sleep deprivation and restlessness have been linked to anxiety, stress, and depression in serious ways, and a daily walk can make a difference in that department, too. Even just five minutes of exercise–a light walk around the block, a very brief jog–can begin to reduce the negative and straining effects of those afflictions, but can also promote deeper and more consistent sleep patterns[3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2356004/You-CAN-walk-away-stress-Scientists-discover-stroll-soothe-brain.html]  When we get more sleep, our brains are more effective at protecting us and providing the mental clarity we need to get through our days, especially the stressful ones.  Studies have consistently shown that steady and regular exercise can reduce the risk of mental health disorders by up to twenty-five percent: that number increases the longer the pattern remains in place.

One step at a time

In conjunction with quality treatment and therapy, a daily walk can not only be beneficial to your cardiovascular health and blood flow, but on your entire nervous system. Honoring and cultivating a healthy mind-body connection is essential to treating both mental and physical diseases and disorders, and anxiety sits at the top of that list. Making time can seem difficult at first, but is possible:

  • Use a pedometer to track your steps, and set a manageable daily goal.
  • Try to walk at the same time every day to create a routine.
  • If you don’t have thirty minutes, five or ten is better than nothing!

Committing to growing into a healthier you is the first step on your journey. Supplementing your treatment at Bridges to Recovery and your resulting recovery from intense anxiety with daily exercise, healthy eating habits, and quality sleep will not only enhance and speed up your progress, but will make you feel confident and assured that you are valuing yourself and your well-being.

Physical exercise is a key component to your health–and can drastically reduce some of the symptoms associated with anxiety, stress, and depression. Bridges to Recovery is committed to quality treatment and aiding you along your journey to better mental and physical health.  If you or someone you know would benefit from treatment for mental health disorders, reach out and contact us today