The Value of Walking for Your Mind, Mood, and Body
Today’s blog is a guest post from Joyce Shulman. I shared a book review of her new book Walk Your Way to Better last week. Today she’s sharing about the value of walking just for my readers!
Walking has been part of my life since childhood. I remember walking home from middle school, long walks on the beach the summer of my junior year of college, and the daily walk to my office as a young lawyer in New York City.
But there is one afternoon when I was sixteen that has remained etched in my memory. I came home from high school in a very bad mood. I don’t know if it was a poor grade, mean girls, or maybe it was about a boy … it was high school so it could have been any one of those things or it could have been nothing. My dad, who has a deep and instinctual understanding of people (especially me) took one look and said “go for a walk, and then we’ll talk.” Taking his advice, I dropped my backpack on the red couch in the den and walked out the door. I returned home two miles later and I vividly remember how my mood had shifted.
That was the moment I discovered the power of walking to boost my mood. Since then, I’ve discovered extensive research that has demonstrated the connection between movement and mood. Just one hour of walking can reduce the risk of major depression, and a 2018 study found that people who exercise (including walking) reported 43% fewer “bad” mental health days.
And I’ve discovered more benefits of this walking practice of mine. Over the decades that I’ve worked as a lawyer, an entrepreneur, and a writer, I have wrestled with countless creative and strategic challenges. Truly, I can’t even begin to count the number of problems I’ve been called upon to solve or ideas I’ve needed to generate. I dare say it could easily be in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps millions. And the temptation is always to sit at my computer until the ideas come and the work gets done.
But decades of experience have taught me that the most effective way to solve a problem or generate an idea is to walk away from it. Literally.
Once again, the research bears this out. A Stanford University study found that walking boosts creative output by 60 percent, and the increased creativity continues for several minutes after the walk.
Last, but certainly not least, is the impact a regular walking practice can have on your body. And once again, there’s my dad. 91 years old young. His mind is sharp, his spirit is intact and his body is strong. And yes, you guessed it, he walks every day. And he is not an anomaly. Research has found that walking has benefits for your heart, your bones, your joints, and your blood pressure. It can also help fight cancer — one Harvard study showed women who walked just 1 to 3 hours per week reduced their risk of death from breast and uterine cancers by 19%, and men with prostate cancer were 57% less likely to see their disease progress if they walked at least 3 hours a week.
My personal walking practice has helped me manage my stress, boost my mood, fuel my creativity, and has helped keep me healthy for decades. And I’m not alone.