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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

You should go on a walk

Daily walks benefit both your psychological and physiological well-being

 

By MAYA KORNYEYEVA — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

 

Imagine you are sitting at your desk in the apartment, taking notes on a particularly difficult passage in your architecture textbook. There is a diagram depicting a wide range of lines and circles, converging into a layout of a residential structure; you sigh, feeling your focus drift away and the sneaking sense of anxiety permeate your thoughts. You start to feel overwhelmed: this chapter is just the top of your mountain of work that must be completed within the next few days. 

Or perhaps you have been engrossed in a television show for nearly four hours when your eyes start to droop and your brain goes blissfully blank. It’s the afternoon, and you have an essay to write, but you have absolutely no creative ideas and no motivation to write anything substantial. You gaze blurredly back at the screen, wondering how you will ever get yourself up and out of bed.

The solution to these feelings of being stressed or burnt out can be found in an activity as simple as stepping outside for a walk and some fresh air. Here’s why.

Throughout my life, I have prioritized daily walks. Whether it’s a one-hour stroll through a nearby park, a 20-minute walk in my neighborhood or a two-to-three-hour hike on a forest trail, these excursions into the outside world have been incredibly helpful in allowing me to restore my inner balance: to feel refreshed and have time away with my thoughts.
No matter what I’m feeling — and often, I can’t pinpoint the turmoil of emotions I experience at any given moment — stepping out of the immediate environment allows me to attune to myself and understand what is going on. Whether I’m feeling gloomy, tired of staring at a screen or simply needing to get up and move around, walking has been a reliable outlet for me.

On a psychological level, just being outside is incredibly beneficial. Healthline, a public health and wellness website, says being within the natural world can increase the senses and clear the mind, allowing us to notice things we never would have considered before. It can also help alleviate unwanted or painful emotions such as fear, worry or sadness.

On a physiological level, fresh air, vitamin D from the sun and the abundance of life within the surroundings rejuvenate the body. Light therapy, in particular (simply being in the sun), can help reduce symptoms associated with depression, such as low mood and fatigue, as well as improve sleep. Fresh air is helpful in clearing the lungs and promoting better breathing, along with boosting your immune system. 

Pair being outside with walking, and you get what I like to call the golden combination: physical, outdoor exercise, which has incredible benefits for your cardiovascular system and isn’t particularly strenuous or tiring. In fact, walking can be just as good as running since it lowers your blood pressure, decreases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes mellitus, burns fat and strengthens bone and muscle structure — just like running does. 

Finally, walking is even more rewarding with a friend, partner or companion. When you have someone to share your journey and engage in conversation with, time flies faster and your walk is much more enjoyable. Especially if you haven’t seen someone close in a long time, walking can be a perfect way to reconnect without spending money going out for dinner or coffee. 

So, if you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, drop everything and take a short walk outside. Chances are that when you return to your desk and start doing your homework again, you will be refreshed and ready to take on the challenge of tackling whatever is on your to-do list. 

 

Written by: Maya Kornyeyeva — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.

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