You can reap the mood-boosting rewards of exercise in less time than it takes to fold your laundry.
You probably know that walking improves your cardiovascular health, and you may be aware that it can also lift your spirits. But we’re betting you didn’t realize how little time it takes for walking to work its mood-brightening magic.
According to a brand-new study from psychologists at Iowa State University, walking for just 12 minutes—even without traditional happiness factors like sunshine, nature, social contact, and uptempo music, turns out to be a powerful mood lifter. (Here are more surprising health benefits of taking a short walk.)
Apparently it’s hard-wired in our evolution, as moving has always been connected to positive pursuits—like finding food and other rewards. The study co-authors, psychologists Jeffrey Miller, PhD, and Zlatan Krizan, PhD, write, “movement not only causes increased positive affect [emotional feelings] … but movement partially embodies, or in a sense reflects, positive affect.”
For the study, published in the journal Emotion, the researchers conducted three experiments examining how walking induces positive emotions. The first one tested the effects of walking vs. not walking: One group of college students took an uneventful stroll through campus buildings while a control group watched a video or browsed through photos.
The campus stroll yielded feelings of self-assurance, joy, and vigor, while the control subjects dropped a few notches in both attentiveness and mood. A second study asked students to complete a walking tour and then write an essay, which was designed to instill a hint of discomfort.
Even with the pressure of writing an essay weighing down on them, the students found that the walk elevated their mood. The third study took nature out of the equation by having students walk on a treadmill—and they still enjoyed mood-boosting results compared to participants who just stood or sat.
If you have a treadmill, go for it, but walking outside—in nature if possible, can maximize the mood boost, even reducing depression and improving our ability to cope with stress, according to earlier research from the University of Michigan.
According to that study, people who had recently experienced stressful life events like a serious illness, death of a loved one, marital separation, or unemployment especially saw a mood lift after outdoor group walks.
“Walking is an inexpensive, low risk, and accessible form of exercise,” senior study author Sara L. Warber, MD, told the University of Michigan Health System. “And it turns out that combined with nature and group settings, it may be a very powerful, under-utilized stress buster.” Here’s how to get the most happiness from your daily walk.
Next time you’re feeling low—or as a precaution against a blue mood—pop outside for a walk of at least 12 minutes, preferably in nature, and ideally with a friend. Here’s how to be happier every single day!
Walking And Weight Loss
Three universal goals most of us share are: to live longer, to live free of illness and to control our weight. Interesting enough, normal walking lets us achieve all three.
In fact, walking may be man’s best medicine for slowing the aging process. First, it works almost every muscle in the body, improving circulation to the joints and massaging the blood vessels (keeping them more elastic). Walking also helps us maintain both our muscle mass and metabolism as we age. It also keeps us young in spirit. For anyone out of shape or unathletically inclined, walking is the no-stress, no-sweat answer to lifelong conditioning.
All it takes is a little time, common sense and a few guidelines. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around regarding fitness walking, weight-loss and dieting.
Walking is one of the best exercise for strengthening bones, controlling weight, toning the leg muscles, maintaining good posture and improving positive self-concept.
People who diet without exercising often get fatter with time. Although your weight may initially drop while dieting, such weight loss consists mostly of water and muscle. When the weight returns, it comes back as fat. To avoid getting fatter over time, increase your metabolism by exercising daily.
To lose weight, it’s more important to walk for time than speed. Walking at a moderate pace yields longer workouts with less soreness – – leading to more miles and more calories spent on a regular basis.
High-intensity walks on alternate days help condition one’s system. But in a waking, weight-loss program, it’s better to be active every day. This doesn’t require walking an hour every day. The key is leading an active life-style 365 days a year.
When it comes to good health and weight loss, exercise and diet are interrelated. Exercising without maintaining a balanced diet is no more beneficial than dieting while remaining inactive.
The national research council recommends eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are the ideal diet foods for several reasons. They’re relatively low in fat and calories, yet are often high in fiber and rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
Remember that rapid weight-loss consists mostly of water and muscle – – the wrong kind of weight to lose. To avoid this, set more reasonable goals, such as one pound per week.
Carbohydrates are high-octane fuel. They provide energy for movement and help raise internal body metabolism. They’re also satisfying. The key is not adding high-fat toppings to your carbohydrates.
It’s everyday habits which define our weight and body composition. A three-minute walk after each meal is worth four pounds less body fat annually. Two flights of stairs a day burns off half a pound of body fat in a year. On the other hand, one candy bar eaten daily will cost you 20 pounds annually.require walking an hour every day.
You’ve probably heard of lymph nodes. Perhaps you know that you have a whole lymphatic system in your body. But do you know what it does?
This little discussed network in your body is a crucial part of your immune system and it has a central role to play in cancer prevention.
Your body relies on your lymphatic system to remove waste, like bacteria, viruses, toxins and abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. And every step you take helps it do its job.
That’s because the lymphatic system does not have an organ like the heart to pump fluid around your body. Lymph fluid relies on movement and the contraction of your muscles to make it flow.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is made up of tiny tubes called lymphatic vessels, which collect lymph fluid. These vessels route the fluid through the lymph nodes, which house immune cells that kill off abnormal cells and other harmful substances.
The lymph fluid then drains back into the blood stream, which flows through the kidneys where waste is removed and passed out in your urine.
“The lymphatic system is really part of the immune system,” says Edward Chang, M.D., an MD Anderson surgeon who treats cancer patients who develop problems with their lymphatic system after treatment.
“It is part of how your body recognizes and attacks abnormal cells that have mutations that can progress to cancer if left unchecked,” he says.
How does exercise help your lymphatic system?
There are many systems in your body that rely on exercise. The lymphatic system is no exception.
“The lymphatic system is stimulated by moving your muscles and getting your heart rate up,” says MD Anderson Senior Physical Therapist Sarah Cleveland. “All these things stimulate the lymphatic flow.”
The contraction of your muscles becomes the pump that helps the fluid get around your body. Exercise can help the lymphatic system flow more effectively and potentially help prevent infections and other diseases, like cancer.
“Any exercise is helpful for the lymphatic system,” says Cleveland. “Exercise under water is especially helpful because of the pressure from the water.”
Stay at a healthy weight
Your lymphatic system also works best if you maintain a healthy weight. This is another reason why exercise is helpful – it helps you keep your weight down.
“Obesity does cause damage to the lymphatic system,” says Dr. Chang. “It makes people more likely to experience problems like lymphedema where lymph fluid gets stuck and cannot drain from certain parts of the body.”
Obesity is linked to 12 types of cancer because it causes inflammation and hormonal imbalances. If your lymphatic system is struggling it may compound those problems.
“A healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet and exercise is very important,” says Chang.