Walking for Stress Can Be Your Secret Weapon to Beat Isolation
Walking is great for stress relief, and can be a great tool for your mental health while we face being kept at home during these stressful times.
I've read it's fine to go for a walk as long as we stay away from other people, so it's a great way to get fresh air, and save your sanity.
Stress is quickly taking over our lives while we are stuck at home, in limbo. It's hard to find things we need, like toilet paper or meat products, while also struggling to find other necessities like cures for our children's boredom and boosts to our mental health while we are stuck, usually inside.
No matter your goals, health status, or current weight, walking is a great addition to your regular routine.
Start where you are, and add some walking into your daily life.
Health Benefits of Walking
The cool thing about walking is anyone start doing it, you don't have to be outside to do it, and you don't have to buy a single thing to do it.
Even if you get up and walk around your house for a few minutes, anything is progress.
When you're walking at an average pace inside, you'll get 100 steps a minute. This means to walk the full 10,000 steps, you'll be able to achieve that in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Without any other walking in your day.
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Walking is Amazing for Your Whole Body
Walking has long been celebrated for it's benefits for your heart, but it also helps in almost every measure of health.
This site explains with about half an hour of walking a day can “increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.”
We can all agree those are great benefits, all for half an hour a day.
You'll Burn More Calories
In addition to burning calories while you walk, you'll also burn more calories when you're done.
This is called “Excessive Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption“. You can click that link and find out more information, but it basically means the harder you work out the more calories you'll burn AFTER you're done working out.
This means you can work hard while you walk, and see massive benefits for the rest of your day.
Let's make sure you're clear on your expectations. You're not going to burn 1,000 calories in one thirty minute walk.
When you're just walking, you can see results too. Here is a table with the approximate calories you'll burn for each mile you walk.
As you can see, the more you weigh, the more benefits you're getting from walking. 100 calories for a mile doesn't seem like much, sure. But when you think about it, that one mile is 1/35 of a pound.
If you walk one mile a day, in one month that is about pound.
To get the most accurate number of how many calories you're burning, get a fitness watch, check the price on Amazon here.
Walking is a Gateway Drug to Other Exercises
A unique benefit we don't talk about much is that walking encourages people to try other workouts.
I'm someone who would see this and stress out. “I'm supposed to do other things too?!” NO.
Once you're comfortable and happy with walking each day, you'll be more likely to CHOOSE to do more work outs. You don't have to force it. It will come.
It's common for people to start their fitness routine with a short walk. You'll notice you start to feel stronger and healthier after a work out, and want to do more. You'll want to learn about yoga or pilates, or maybe try to run sometimes. Perhaps you want to dust off those weights and start toning your arms.
If you drink a lot of water you're going to see those results faster, here are my tips for drinking more water.
Walking Is Accessible for Everyone
My favorite thing about walking is fitness level does not play a factor. If you're feeling like you want to get back in shape, you can start by walking.
It's the ultimate baby step to working your way up to a fitter lifestyle.
You don't need sneakers, you can walk in your regular shoes, flip flops, anything you have.
Fancy workout clothes aren't necessary. Go out in jeans and a tee, or a sundress. Wear sunglasses, sweatpants, a bathing suit. It doesn't matter. What matters is getting up and walking.
I used to think in order to get in shape I had to have a gym membership. Instead I bought a few workout videos. I bought weights, and yoga mats, and sneakers, and a big green blow up exercise ball. The only time I used it was when I was in labor with my second son.
You don't have to make the same expensive mistakes as I did. Instead, let's just get up and go.
Walking for Stress Relief
My mental health is important to me, I talk about it a lot here. If you're interested, here are a few of my top posts about mental health:
The Ultimate Guide to Social Anxiety
How to Create a Journal For Your Mental Health
Magnesium and Mental Health (why everyone ever NEEDS magnesium)
Stress takes a toll on your entire body. The more you move, the more happy endorphins, the less anxiety. Bam. Your life is starting to get better.
Anxiety has this way of making your life smaller, and putting your in a box. You don't have to listen. You can still stretch that box, and go for walks, or go to a park with your dog or child.
Just because your anxiety thinks it knows what's best for you doesn't mean you have to listen.
I mean, I know what's best for my three year old, and he's never listened to a single thing I've ever said to him. And we are all still alive.
You are in charge.
People often don't realize how much stress and anxiety can affect everything from their mental health, to the food they eat, to the spot they park in at Target.
It's important to relieve stress every opportunity we get, so here are some bonus tips for how to use walking to reduce stress.
When you are stuck at home because of a viral illness, or because of your mental health, it's important to try to get outside.
This can be going on a hike, or walking around a local walking trail, or taking your dog to the dog park.
It can also be as simple as walking to the mailbox to start reducing stress.
Then walking to the end of your street and back.
Move on to walking around the block. Take longer and longer walks until you can go a mile. Try for an hour.
Other great outdoor ideas:
- walk the beach
- walking a lake
- local playground
- walking trails
- hiking trails
- downtown streets
- festivals around you
- farmer's market
I love taking my dog out after I spend a good chunk of my morning dropping off children at their various schools.
We go to a local park, and I put on a podcast, and since there is never anyone around, I usually let her off her leash a few times to sniff around in the grass and look for some little woodland creatures. She's never found or caught any, but she happily looks around.
I talked a little bit about this above, but if you're having a hard time with walking, or you're in the beginning stages, it's okay to distract yourself so you can make it through.
Make sure it's something passive. Looking down at your phone while you walk can lead to bumping into things, ro messing up your posture, and that doesn't benefit you at all.
Listen to an ebook from your local library (through Libby or Overdrive) or from Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, (check the price on Amazon). If you haven't heard of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited you have to go look, it's unlimited reading, listening, and it even has magazines. I just discovered it, and I'm pretty hooked!
Try out Podcasts. You'll have to find what you want to listen to before you start walking, or you'll spend the whole time deciding.
Listen to a motivational YouTube Video
Distraction is another benefit you'll get from walking to reduce stress.
You aren't overthinking or letting the stress consume your thoughts, so you'll have a better mindset when you're done.
Look at Walking Like Self-Care
It's easy to fall into the trap of working harder and obsessing over calories and stressing about walking.
This can easily lead to you getting less help with your mental health from walking and adding more stress to your already stressful day.
If you fall into this trap easily, the best thing you can do is stop thinking about walking like a form of fitness or a way to lose weight, and start thinking about it as a means to relieve your stress.
It's all about your mindset.
You decide how you're going to respond to starting a walking routine.
The Perfect Opportunity to Practice Mindfulness
You can do breathing exercises and focus on mindfulness as you are walking. Many people find their walking to be like a short therapy session, because they are able to clear their mind and be present in the moment.
For breathing exercises, try focusing on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly, and this will help you pay attention to how you feel and what you hear every time you intake a breath. This helps you to relax while you are walking, and you can get into a good headspace.
Now, if you have to walk with your entire family, you're going to have a different experience.
Try to find the positive, and therefore find ways to appreciate this extra time we get to spend with family.
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This is so true. Walking is such an important part of my day now. The scenery, fresh air, sounds of nature, and movement are lifesavers. When my kiddos were little, a daily exploration walk was mandatory and I’ll never forget those little hands wrapped around my fingers. Precious. Such a well-written post. Now, I am even more motivated to not skip a day. Thank you!
I love walking outside. It is an excellent choice for stress relief and it’s something that I use frequently. It’s actually how I got into exercising. What I did not know is that you continue to burn more calories after you walk. That’s an awesome benefit!