Thursday, 24 November 2016

Why going for a walk can help you stay happy not SAD

It’s that time of year again… The clocks have gone back and there’s a definite nip in the air. Some people embrace the winter months, while for others it's a difficult time of year. A time where hibernation seems like an attractive prospect and even the simplest of daily tasks become a chore.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an illness caused by a lack of natural sunlight. It can leave people feeling lethargic and suffering from noticeable changes in mood. Approximately 20% of people in the UK experience some SAD symptoms, while another 8% suffer more seriously to the point that it affects their daily lives. More about the symptoms of SAD >

There are two proven ways of relieving the symptoms associated with the change in the seasons. The first is natural light and the second is exercise. What could be better than a lunchtime walk to kill two birds with one stone?

A recent study by the University of Birmingham looked at the effects of a daily walk on mood and general wellbeing. They drafted volunteers and asked them to walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch hour, three times a week. The aim of the walk was to encourage the body to release the serotonin and endorphins that act as our natural mood enhancers and energy boosters. Reports were completed by participants, twice-daily and by the end of the study period it was found that walking improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.

You can find out more about the benefits of a lunchtime walk – and the study – in this New York Times article.

There are loads of reasons (excuses?) to forget about walking once you’re actually at work, but all it takes is a few simple tweaks to your daily routine to really reap the health benefits.

The mental and physical benefits of taking a break at lunchtime are well documented – you’ll find out more about that in our previous blog post about stress busting techniques – even if you're only walking for 15 minutes at a time, it all helps.

If you don’t tend to take lunch and we can’t persuade you of the benefits of doing so, it’s time to build your walks into your work time. Schedule space in your diary to go through your emails – on the move – or maybe suggest a walking meeting with your colleagues?

And if the winter months are leaving you feeling a little blue, it should be even more of a priority for you. To alleviate any SAD symptoms, we recommend that you:

  • Try to walk for 30 minutes exercise three days a week – more if you can manage it
  • Walk at a steady speed that will get your heart and lungs working harder
  • Keep to open areas if you can to maximise the natural sunlight getting to your body.

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