Recognizing stress is not difficult; although admitting you should face it and find ways to intervene the reaction can be daunting. A stressful person find themselves frequently anxious, having a high heart rate, with high blood pressure which consequently can produce headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, frequent illnesses, alcohol abuse, overeating, and other maladies. Stressors are many. Most cannot be ignored such as those situations which are work related; family related, from a death, a divorce, a personal slow illness such as cancer, and on the list goes.
How can we lessen our degree of stress? Walking or running increases blood flow to the brain which is mentally and physically stimulating. This increase of energy is immediate. This new energy allows you to cope with stress more effectively, and gradually the muscles and the heart rate becomes increasingly rhythmic. What follows is peace of mind. Thus the actual physical stress of brisk movement increases your resistance to mental distress. Completing your hour of walking now has given you a sense of hardiness and will better enable both mind and body to handle daily stressors that sometimes can mentally paralyze your thought process.
Stress and anxiety can also bring us closer to an even greater mental challenge; that of depression. Major changes in life, such as a disease injury, a broken relationship, being laid off from your job can paralyze you in such a way that it becomes hard to “cope” with day to day activities and can lead to chronic feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Those mental and/or physical traumas can bring on depression. Depression affects your neurochemistry because there is less serotonin and norepinephrine being produced. These are chemicals in the brain which are responsible for our “good” moods. After losing both my parents within two years, I suffered depression and at times felt mentally stagnant. Intellectually I realized that running outside does increase serotonin and endorphins; the chemistry which makes us feel better. That is when my marathon practice and workouts took hold. I simply elevated my mood by long distance running and those workouts became my best friend so to speak.
Less dramatically, there are others reasons why both walking and running makes a depressed or anxious person feel better, especially when joining others. It is a well-known fact that “girl talk” produces endorphins, so those of us who work out together have much happier outcomes; long after the walk or run. Both walking and running give you a time to escape and reflect on challenges and stressful situations. You can resolve your problems with a thoughtful approach versus fretting about them hour by hour. Taking a long walk also can help you recall good memories and better times which will help your mood become more positive. Physiologically, those who suffer from physical disease have a weakened immune system which makes one more susceptible to illnesses, Study after study reveal that 35 minutes to an hour of vigorous walking or running will increase bone density, lower heart rate, increase metabolic rate, help keep weight in check, all of which adds to physical strength.
In closing, we must remember to begin with small doses of vigorous walking or easy running. Set your table for lifetime fitness and success bouts of exercise. Begin setting duration goals, but keep them attainable, easy, and varied so boredom is prevented. Become an outside person and encourage others to join you. Always remember, that you may not want to take “your walk or run” today; but when you finish I guarantee, you will feel physically and mentally better. This statement is from someone who has walked and ran for over fifty years. And remember guys and gals…doing it together is an instant mood lifter so take that first step now!
This article is based on years of personal and professional experience with coaching both men and women of all ages, health conditions, and environmental settings which include: schools, corporate workplaces, Moffitt Cancer Center, and a diverse amount of individuals with “pre-existing” conditions.
Lynn Gray, M.S., RRCA certified Coach, owner of Take…The First Step, www.FirstStepPrograms
15100 Hutchison Road, Suite 109 – Tampa, FL 33625
Lgray88@ yahoo.com – 813-453-7885
Core and More for Forty and More…My First 5K…Half to Whole Marathon Program
Author of: Conquering the Marathon, Fit and Faster, Cardio Walking for Weight Loss