Can Short Distance Walking Really Have Beneficial Effects on Your Mental Health?

Posted byCounseling WiseonMay 13, 2019

If you’re like most people then you know that you should exercise.

All of the research shows that exercise is important not just for your physical health but your mental health as well.

Yet, a lot of the physical activities recommended seem really intense, and you’re concerned about getting hurt. Or you have never really exercised before, and you just don’t know where to start.

Would you believe that walking, even for short distances, can make a big difference in your mental health?


It turns out that the simple act of walking can actually have big payoffs.

Walking and Your Mental Health

Got twelve minutes? That’s all the time you need in order to boost your mental health and to feel better.

Researchers from Iowa State University learned that walking for twelve minutes daily had positive benefits. You feel more self-confident and attentive to what’s happening around you. Plus, you are happier and have more energy.

Also, if you combine walking with nature, you get even more benefits. This includes expending less mental energy thinking about negative things that have happened to you.

So, if you are feeling down, the solution may be a quick walk at your local nature trail, community garden, or park.

Feeling Worried or Stressed? Try Walking!

Research has found that walking for just ten minutes has the same benefits as a forty-five-minute workout when it comes to dealing with anxiety or depression. This is important to consider if you are struggling with either.

If you have a moment when you feel overwhelmed or are in a negative head space, a quick walk could be really beneficial.

This is great news as walking is something that you can easily do without needing to book a therapy appointment or take pills. Instead, it’s an activity that you can incorporate into your overall treatment plan.

Disconnecting, Divergent Thinking, and Walking

In our tech-driven world, it’s easy to mistake “surfing” the internet for mental wandering. However, you really need to disconnect for this to happen. You may surprise yourself when your mind is free to drift and wander, such as when you take a walk.

A more formal way to describe mind-wandering is called “divergent thinking.” This comes from a study published by Stanford University researchers. In it, they described divergent thinking as a way to come up with many potential solutions to a problem. That, in turn, allows you to be more present in the moment and creative, and come up with more ideas.

In fact, the researchers found that walking actually boosted creativity by 60%. Therefore, if you feel like you are experiencing a mental block, the science says that you should step away and go for a walk.

Sometimes, you just need to disconnect for a short period of time in order to really get your creative juices flowing.

Ways to Maximize Your Walking

Research about the link between walking for short distances and your mental health is really exciting. However, it’s important that you keep certain things in mind so you can get the most benefit from walking.

For example:

  • Build into your schedule a short walk either before or after work. This helps you to get into the habit of walking. Even better, go for two walks a day!

  • Walk with a friend or your partner. Walking with someone reinforces the connection with another person. It also is a great time to talk—about serious and not so serious things.

  • Get a smartwatch with a fitness app. Some apps now have reminders for you to get up and move when you’ve been still for long periods of time. This can help you stay motivated.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the simplest of actions can have really great benefits. Walking is pretty much as simple as they come. Yet, research shows that even such a simple act as walking for short distances can improve your mental health, and thus, your enjoyment of life!

For further information about Anxiety Counseling, please take a look at my Anxiety page.

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About the Therapist

Gay A. Hunter, M.Div., LPC-S, is a licensed professional counselor who graduated from Brite Divinity School at TCU. She is committed to partner with you to transform your life. She owns a private practice in Fort Worth, TX. She specializes in online therapy. She is trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. To find out more about Gay click here