Stress is an almost inescapable part of modern life, but it affects each person in different ways. Some people suffer from physical signs, such as headaches, tense or sore muscles, or trouble sleeping. Others might show emotional signs, such as feeling anxious, depressed, on edge, angry, or all four of these at varying times.
The good news is that exercise can help relieve stress, improve health, and boost mood. Even better, you don’t have to spend hours pumping iron in the gym. All you have to do is start a walking program.
Healthy habits, including regular physical activity such as walking, can help reduce or prevent some of the most harmful effects of persistent stress on our body, mind and spirit.
Stress increases blood pressure and heart rate, but lowers your respiration, creating a “fight or flight” response. This means your body will remain in emergency mode on and off every day, for weeks or even months at a time, if you don’t take steps to lower your stress.
How many steps? 10,000 per day is the recommendation by the US Surgeon General. This might sound like a lot, but the good news is that every step you take throughout the day can help you reach this goal.
Walking lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, and boosts breathing. It burns calories and reduces body fat. It evens out blood sugar, so you are less likely to grab unhealthy snacks when you are under stress.
Stress can wear you down over time, leading to a weakened immune system. It creates persistent inflammation in the body, which can lead to clogging of the arteries and autoimmune diseases, in which the body starts to attack itself, such a rheumatoid arthritis.
A regular walking program offers:
- less stress
- more calm
- better mood
- increased energy
- increased concentration
- better resistance to unhealthy coping strategies such as smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, and eating too many non-nutritious foods
- increased appetite control
- better quality of sleep
- better heart health
- weight loss and weight control
- trim and toned muscles
- weight-bearing exercise for good bone density
It also offers a nice change of scenery, which can also lower stress.
If you’re tired of feeling like a pressure cooker about to explode, lace up your shoes and start your walking program today, and see what a difference it can make to your health.