Boy, do I love to walk. More specifically, I love to walk along the beach. Long time readers may recall, at one point that I walked on the beach strand nearly every day. Rarely did a day go by that I hoofed it less than five miles. It was instrumental in helping me lose ninety pounds. We all heard many times that exercise helps increase endorphins which may relieve depression. Now a study by The University of Michigan (U-M), with partners from De Montfort University, James Hutton Institute, and Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom shows that group nature walks are linked with significantly lower depression, less perceived stress and enhanced mental health and well-being. It does a body good.
People who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation or unemployment especially saw a mood boost after outdoor group walks.
We hear people say they feel better after a walk or going outside but there haven’t been many studies of this large size to support the conclusion that these behaviors actually improve your mental health and well-being,
says senior author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School.
Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise and it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster. Our findings suggest that something as simple as joining an outdoor walking group may not only improve someone’s daily positive emotions but may also contribute a non-pharmacological approach to serious conditions like depression.
Researchers evaluated 1,991 participants from the Walking for Health program in England. Warber continued by saying,
Given the increase in mental ill health and physical inactivity in the developed world, we are constantly exploring new, accessible ways to help people improve their long term quality of life and well-being. Group walks in local natural environments may make a potentially important contribution to public health and be beneficial in helping people cope with stress and experience improved emotions.
I haven’t been walking nearly as much as I use to and, unfortunately, it shows both physically and mentally. Looking back at older posts it looks to me like my depressive states started happening more frequently about the same time I stopped walking as much. It could be coincidental, but maybe not.
We know the real challenge here. Exercise helps reduce depression, yet, how do you get motivated to exercise when you’re depressed? I guess in a strange way it’s one of the benefits of being bipolar – the depression doesn’t last forever. Take advantage and exercise at those times I’m balanced or manic and I’ll help ward off those depressive times. Oh, they’ll be back, but maybe, just maybe, not as hard or as long.