It’s National Stress Awareness Month—and we’re kicking it off with some targeted ideas to help you change your stress response. Starting now.
Your body evolved to do one thing exceedingly well: Cope with bouts of acute stress and then recover from it. What your body did not evolve to do is face off with unrelenting stress while sitting in a chair for hours a day. You were designed to move. More specifically, to walk.
Note, I did not say you were designed to “work out” or “use heavy fitness machinery.” That’s why if you want to do one thing starting now to relieve physical and mental stress, stand up and walk out the door. And keep walking.
I love to walk. Love it. And as the former publisher of Walking magazine, I know that it’s not just a fitness tip, but a lifestyle. Plenty of people make it their main source of exercise in fact, by making it a part of their everyday lives.
Here are some of the benefits of walking, outlined by the Mayo Clinic:
- Lower your "bad" cholesterol while raising your “good” cholesterol
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
- Manage your weight
- Improve your mood
- Stay strong and fit
In short, walking can counter the negative effects of stress on your mind, body, and spirit.
How to Make Walking Work for You
- Do some data collection. How much do you walk a day? Find out. Get a pedometer (they’re cheap--around $10), or invest in some even smarter technology like the popular FitBit, which measures steps taken, calories burned—and even clocks your sleep. (You can also connect online and compete with your friends through their interface—healthy competition at its best.)
- Aim for 10,000 steps. Get them in. Find ways—even if it’s doing a lap around the office, walking to the store, or taking the stairs. You’ll be amazed how opportunities for steps arise when you’re looking to rack up more.
- Take your coffee—and your meetings—on the road. Where can you take it outside? When your body moves, your brain does too and I can’t think of a better way to brainstorm than to do it with your colleagues out on a walk instead of inside a conference room.
- Go for a long one. Treat yourself to at least one hour-long walk per week.
A clearer head, a relaxed body, fewer aches and pains—there’s not enough to recommend walking as a great way to hit many stressful birds with one stone.