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The Mood-Boosting Benefits of Walking

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Living with a chronic condition often means that a lot of our mental and physical energy is spent thinking about — and trying to relieve — it. Sometimes it can take up whole hours or days of our lives, whether that time is devoted to research, doctor’s visits, or just trying to find things to do at home to relieve certain symptoms.

If you’ve been feeling stressed out and a little bit sad because so much of your time and energy has recently been funneled into dealing with your chronic condition, there may be a way for you to feel better. For those who are mobile, it’s drug-free, easy, and doesn’t cost a thing. Sound too good to be true? Well, in this case, it might not be. We’re talking about the benefits of walking.

[Note: It is strongly suggested that you, or your exercise partner, check with your physician, or healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.]

Benefits of Walking For Your Mood

According to a recent study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, replacing an hour of sitting with physical activity like taking a brisk walk may result in “a 26 percent decrease in odds for becoming depressed.”

The Cleveland Clinic also suggests walking for a mood boost, explaining why putting a spring in your step might actually make you happier. Exercise like walking helps release the body’s natural pain-killing and mood-boosting chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which work together to help you feel better. Additionally, walking may help ease stress and improve quality of sleep, two things that can bring our moods down if they’re unbalanced.

Starting Your Walking Routine

If you’re ready to get out of your head and get into nature for a little mood-boosting therapy, make sure you set yourself up for success. It’s important to have the right walking shoes (ones that cushion your feet and help to absorb shock) and to dress appropriately — especially if you’re walking outdoors! Consider bringing along things like a hat, bug spray, and dressing in layers in case you heat up or cool down while outside.

It’s also important to give yourself some time to stretch after you come back from your walk to keep your muscles supple and healthy.

If you live with someone who’s been helping you ride the wave of a chronic diagnosis, encourage them to get outside and get a few steps in, too. You may not be the only one in your household who could use a healthy mood boost!

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