Residents of Hickory Villa assisted living community in Omaha, NE, know that exercise is important. It's no secret that cardio that gets your blood flowing and regular movement help keep your entire body — including your mind — healthy. But sometimes workouts seem like a daunting proposition. Before you skip exercise because you don't have the right clothing, equipment or skills, consider these four benefits of a simple walk.
A review in the journal Depression and Anxiety noted that aerobic exercise provided an antidepressant effect. And that's not the only literature on the subject. Numerous researchers have linked walking and other cardiovascular exercise with mental health benefits that include:
Boosts in mood
A reduction in dependency on certain substances
It's not magic; it's science. Studies indicate that walking enough to bring your heart rate up slightly increases blood circulation. That causes the release of additional feel-good chemicals in your brain, all of which act to tamp down stress, depression and anxiety.
You don't have to walk fast and break a sweat to get some mental health benefits of a stroll, however. By breaking away from your environment, you can more easily put a stop to any negative thought processes you were engaging in. A change of scenery lets you clear your head and may spark creative juices that help you find a solution to a problem you've been pondering. And if relocating yourself temporarily doesn't work, consider taking a walk with a friend so you can discuss your thoughts with someone else.
The Heart Foundation of Australia notes that walking 30 to 45 minutes each day can help improve the quality of the sleep you get. Again, it boils down to science, as exercise helps produce the hormones that regulate healthy sleep patterns. It can also help reduce inflammation and muscle tension, which could be partly to blame if you're struggling to sleep well.
Walking seems to be well-known by authorities across the world for its benefits to health and wellness. Walking for Health, an organization in the UK, notes that walking has potential cognitive benefits for older adults. Regular walking can improve memory and help you focus on things and think clearly. There's some evidence it might also slow the decline of cognitive functions associated with dementia.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before you start any new exercise routine, even if you're only walking. But once you get the go ahead, hit the halls and outdoor grounds of Hickory Villa regularly to get as many benefits of walking as possible.