9 Reasons Why Walking is Good for Your Mental Health

Life is busy and it’s not easy to find time for yourself. But you know that taking care of your mental health is a must, not just for yourself, but also your family and all the people you encounter throughout the day. What’s our go-to for self-care? Lacing up our tennies, grabbing our Jetti Poles, and taking a walk. Walking is more than an excellent form of exercise. It’s a chance to clear your mind, relax your shoulders, and recharge. Here’s why.

  1. Walking makes you happier. Walking reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the trifecta of happy hormones: endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. A walk is a powerful, all-natural mood booster, leaving you feeling, well, just downright happier! 

  2. Walking reduces stress. Many of us are walking around in an almost constant state of stress with heightened levels of cortisol pumping inside us, which can contribute to anxiety, depression, weight gain, irritability and even insomnia. But walking just 20 minutes—especially outdoors in nature—significantly reduces cortisol levels and tamps down your stress response. 

  3. Walking helps combat depression. Depression can become a factor in our lives at any moment, and seeking the advice of a doctor may be necessary. But for some, lessening depression can be found with the act of walking. The combination of a boost in happiness hormones, the reduction in stress hormones, the long-term impact on brain health, the benefits to self-esteem, the effect of being in nature, and the positive impact on your immune system may all be contributing factors.

  4. Walking helps curb anxiety. Like depression, anxiety can pop up out of the blue, leaving you feeling helpless, but the act of walking can calm those frayed nerves and elevated heart rate. As little as 10 minutes breathing in fresh air and walking through the worry does wonders for putting anxiety at bay.

  5. Walking helps you process hard things. A worried mind and difficult situation can often be hard to work through, but walking can actually serve as a form of meditation, giving you the time and space to process your thoughts and settle your mind. 

  6. Walking helps you focus. Feeling like your mind is all over the place? The act of your feet hitting the ground stimulates blood flow, sending oxygen to your brain, which in turn gives you the ability to focus better. The increase in connectivity and coordination of important brain networks improves your cognitive function—your thinking skills—helping you be better at planning, prioritizing, strategizing and multi-tasking.

  7. Walking helps with creativity. Putting your feet one in front of the other—either indoors or out—can really get your juices flowing. A fascinating study from Stanford University showed that a short walk can increase your creativity by up to 60% and that boost in creativity can last for several hours following that walk.

  8. Walking combats loneliness and creates connection. Whether shoulder-to-shoulder or via phone, taking a walk with a loved one is truly magical. Not only is it meditative, but the increased oxygen and blood flow helps you communicate more clearly and listen more carefully. According to this Tedx Talk by 99 Walks and Jetti Fitness Co-Founder Joyce Shulman, women who regularly walk with their friends are 2.5 times less likely to be lonely.

  9. Walking helps you sleep better. A good night’s sleep may just be the key to help you feel more rejuvenated, focused, and energized to crush your goals. Research shows that women who walked regularly reported significantly better sleep than those who took fewer steps. And those study participants who were already getting the recommended hours of sleep? Well, they found their quality of sleep improved on days they walked.

So, next time you head out for a walk, relish the thought that you’re not only doing great things for your body physically, but you’re also giving yourself the opportunity you need to take care of yourself mentally. You just might find yourself smiling a little more brightly, sleeping a bit more soundly, and breathing a bit more deeply thanks to the mentally clarifying benefits of taking a walk.