strolling or walking for stress relief

Strolling is One of the Best Ways to Get Stress Relief

Walking or strolling  is one of the top ten ways people use to get relief from stress.

Results of Surveys on Stress

First and foremost, a recent survey found that about 55 percent of American adults said they were stressed during most of the day. Moreover, 45 percent said they worried.

Most noteworthy, a 2018 survey found somewhat similar results. First, nearly 33 percent of those surveyed said they visited a doctor about stress related issues. Also, 33 percent said their job was a regular source of stress. Next, 52 percent said financial issues were a frequent cause of their stress. Lastly, 57 percent said they were paralyzed by the stress.

Top Ten Popular Ways to Relieve Stress

Next, these were some of the most popular ways people, under stress, used to relieve their stress.

  1. 1
    First, nearly 48 percent of adults, watched movies or television to relieve their stress.
  2. 2
    Second, nearly 38 percent of adults listened to music to relieve stress.
  3. 3
    Third, nearly 33 percent of adults exercised to work off the stress.
  4. 4
    Fourth, another 33 percent of adults simply relaxed.
  5. 5
    Also, 31 percent of adults either went for a walk, or worked on their gardens to clear their heads.
  6. 6
    Moreover, another 31 percent read a book, newspaper, or magazine to get relief.
  7. 7
    Next, nearly 27 percent either cooked or went out to eat.
  8. 8
    Meanwhile, another 27 percent played computer or video games.
  9. 9
    Also, nearly 23 percent spent time on their hobbies.
  10. 10
    Finally, 21 percent drank wine or beer.

What Does Research Say?

Now, studies and research show that walking has significant stress relieving benefits.

  1. 1
    First, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that a walk through a park’s green spaces shifts your brain into a calmer meditative state.  In fact, a walk, in green spaces, triggers involuntary attention in the brain, meaning that the brain holds attention while at the same time allowing for reflection.
  2. 2
    Next, a study in Psychological Science reported that a walk in a park can help improve memory. Also, the research, conducted at the University of Michigan, found that a walk improves attention and relieves stress. In addition, the study reported that a walk improves memory performance and attention by up to 20 percent.
  3. 3
    Furthermore, a walk outdoors has been shown to improve energy levels.
  4. 4
    Meanwhile, another study was published in Frontiers of Psychology. And, this study found that a twenty-minute stroll, that gets you in touch with nature, significantly lowers your stress level.
  5. 5
    Next, a recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that a one hour walk reduces the risk of major depression by 26 percent.
  6. 6
    Also, research has shown that a walk promotes the release of brain chemicals called endorphins. By the way, endorphins stimulate relaxation and improves our mood. Now, walking does not have to be done at a fast pace to get these stress-relieving benefits. In fact, studies show that even a stroll, at a comfortable pace, promotes relaxation.
  7. 7
    Finally, a 2008 study reported that individuals with sedentary lifestyles experienced a 20 percent boost in energy and a 65 percent reduction in fatigue after beginning a walking program.

What are the Benefits of Strolling?

  1. 1
    First, brisk strolls boosts the brain’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins while reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.
  2. 2
    Second, walks with friends develops strong social bonds. Moreover, these bonds also have stress-relieving benefits. Furthermore, social support from friends, family, and community members have been shown to improve stress resilience by lowering levels of cortisol. Meanwhile, physical contact with a loved one lowers blood pressure and decreases cortisol levels.

Where to Go Strolling

Now, walking for fitness or stress relief can be done almost anywhere. Indeed, strolls can be done in a shopping mall, on a treadmill, in front of your TV, or outdoors. However, choose a safe and peaceful place to stroll. Also, find a partner to encourage and support each other.

Walking Attire

Most of all, wear shoes with proper arch support, a firm heel, and thick flexible soles. Also, when you buy shoes, be sure to walk around the store before you take them home. By the way, try to buy your shoes late in the day when your feet are their largest.

Next, wear clothes that keep you dry and comfortable.

Walking Guidance

First and foremost, divide your walk into three segments.

  1. 1
    First, start by walking slowly to warm up. Then, gradually increase your speed.
  2. 2
    Next, increase your speed to a brisk walk. However, only walk fast enough to elevate your heart rate while still being able to speak comfortably, concentrate, and breathe without effort.
  3. 3
    Finally, slow down your pace to cool down.

Now, if you have a busy schedule, break up your walks into multiple sessions throughout the day. But, be sure each session is at least 10 minutes long.

Most of all, vary your routine. For example, try strolls in different places to get a change in scenery.

Meditating While Strolling

Next, according to a 16-week study, meditating while strolling has the greatest impact on improving mood. By the way, this study involved 135 volunteers divided into five groups. Meanwhile, the different groups walked at different paces. Some walked quickly while others slowly. Also, some groups meditated as they walked while other groups did not.

Now, as their meditation, the strollers simply counted “one, two, one, two…” as they strolled. Moreover, the meditation was designed to have them focus on their steps instead of thinking about other concerns. Meanwhile, regardless of the speed of their strolls, the meditating groups experienced the greatest reduction in stress and most improvements in mood.

Strolling to Reduce Ruminations

Now, a group of researchers from Stanford University thought that walking in nature might help reduce ruminations. By the way, as they describe it, ruminations are “a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses”.

In fact, ruminations are what happens when you get really sad, but you can’t stop thinking about your glumness and what’s causing it. For example, the cause for these ruminations could be a breakup, a layoff, or a biting remark.

Furthermore, ruminations show up as increased activity in a brain region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex. By the way, this is a narrow band in the lower part of the brain that regulates negative emotions. Furthermore, if ruminations continue, unabated, for too long, depression can set it.

Next, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Stanford scientists examined whether a nature walk could help reduce ruminations in 38 mentally healthy people. Indeed, the nature walkers showed decrease in ruminations and in activity in their subgenual prefrontal cortices.

Therefore, strolling in natural environments are more restorative and thus confer greater psychological benefits. So, next time you are ruminating, go on a walk by yourself to get healed.

Mindful Walking

Next, mindful walking helps relieve stress by you connecting with the experience of stress in the body and mind. Now, the mind is focused on the moment by moment experience of the following.

  1. 1
    First, the walking movement.
  2. 2
    Next, placing of the foot on the ground.
  3. 3
    Finally, the shifting of your weight from one leg to another.

Consequently, your mind is not focused on the source that’s causing the stress. Therefore, just keeping balanced and upright is enough to focus on the mind.

Furthermore, when you walk in nature, your mind’s attention also falls on the sound of the rustling leaves and on the beauty of the light falling on the path. As a result, you gain a broader perspective of the walking experience.

So, next time you go on a walk by yourself, try mindful walking to get healed.

Walking for the Elderly and the Injured

While walking is easy for nearly everyone, there are many, who, for health reasons, are unable to walk on their own. However, walking is good for them too. And, it’s not just the physical benefits of getting the exercise, but also to help their mind.

For example, seniors and the elderly can walk using walking aids like walkers and rollators. Meanwhile, those with lower leg injuries can use knee scooters.

Now, those using these walking aides need to walk in areas which accommodate these aides. For example, here’s a sampling of the list of things to be aware of as you map your walking course.

  1. 1
    First, the course needs to be relative flat. Indeed, going up and down a steep hill may be dangerous. On the other hand, depending on your strength, a course with a mild incline may be acceptable.
  2. 2
    Next, proceed slowly in the beginning, until you become familiar with the course.
  3. 3
    Now, as you walk, look ahead to anticipate uneven surfaces, hazards, or inclines.
  4. 4
    Also, you don’t want to walk too closely to people with your walker, rollator, or scooter. This is because you don’t want to run into them should they stop abruptly. On the other hand, you also don’t want to walk too slowly and take up too much space. In fact, it’s better to walk on a course that is lightly used.
  5. 5
    By the way, never use a walker, rollator, or scooter on an escalator.

About the Author Lisa