Five stress-busting reasons to go for a walk
It’s a busy day in the office, deadlines are looming and you’re feeling the pressure. That lunchtime walk you planned just doesn’t seem like a priority anymore. The reality is, it’s more of a priority than ever!
Prolonged stress at work or at home, or acute stress caused by a sudden event like the loss of a loved one or redundancy can have a significant effect on your health. Specifically, research suggests that your immune system, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, hormonal balance and brain chemistry can all be affected by stress. In fact, stress and its effect on your emotional health are implicated in many diseases and illnesses.
So while going for a walk during your work day might fall off the bottom of your to-do list, making it a regular habit can bring big benefits.
1. Walking keeps you happy
You don’t need me to tell you this as you’ve hopefully experienced it for yourself. Regular exercise, like a brisk 30 minute (or more if you have time) walk, releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. Exercising regularly helps release muscle tension, beats the negative physical effects of stress, boosts your self-esteem, helps you concentrate and improves your sleep. Lots of reasons to be happy.
2. Walking gets you moving
Okay, a pretty obvious one, but as work for many people means sitting for long periods, this is important. So important that the new national physical activity guidelines identify sedentary behaviour as a separate, serious health risk. In my experience, moving away from your workspace can also give you a new perspective on your work and help with problem solving.
3. Walking gets you outside
The great outdoors is a natural stress reliever. Research suggests that levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower in those who spend time in green spaces and they also report feeling less stressed. A lunchtime walk is a great opportunity to make the most of WA’s incredible green spaces and to boost your mood at the same time.
4. Walking helps you connect
As the saying goes ‘a problem halved is a problem solved’. Walking with a workmate gives you the chance to connect (one of the three parts of the Act-Belong-Commit model for positive mental health) and share any problems you might be experiencing. And there’s nothing like a good laugh with a friend to help beat stress.
5. Walking boosts your energy
A brief burst of physical activity is a much more effective means of beating the mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump than a big dose of caffeine or a great big chocolate bar. If you can’t spare the time for a quick walk around the block (are you sure you can’t?), do jobs that involve you standing and moving around the office away from your workspace.
For information on setting up a workplace walking group, see the Heart Foundation’s Walking@Work introductory pack.
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