Walking To Reduce Stress
The easiest, most effective aerobic exercise to help you defeat stress is fitness walking. It is cheap, it can be done anywhere at any time and its benefits are not only physical but also psychological. Emerson, the great American writer, knew only too well about the simple pleasures of walking and its ability to heal the body and mind. Like Wordsworth, he was a lover of the outdoors and found much of the inspiration for his famous essays whilst out walking.
The reason is simple. The human body is not built for sitting, whether it is in a chair, a car seat, or at an office desk – it is designed to move. There is a yogi saying: ‘movement is life.’ Unless we wake up to the effects that our sedentary lives are having upon us and do something positive about them, then stress will be the logical outcome of our inaction. At the very least we are likely tosuffer fatigue, irritability and psychological and emotional discomfort. Then come the stiff necks, stiff backs, headaches and numerous physical problems associated with inactivity, which often remain undiagnosed.
When we sit, our head and shoulders tend to pull the body forward under the force of gravity, and this places undue strain on the muscles and spine. Instead of sitting with good posture, many of us sit hunched over our work, and it is the cumulative strain on our bodies that eventually causes the tension and stress that many of us suffer from. In contrast, when we walk we come into our natural inheritance: our bodies are designed to move; they are designed to function in the regular rhythmical way that walking gives them. In Scholar Gypsies, John Buchan has this to say about our sedentary condition and how walking can help: ‘As a man’s mind is richly advantaged, so also is his body. He loses the sickly humours, the lassitude, the dullness, which oppress all sedentary folk.’
Walking is the answer to stress. Walking frees the mind from the stresses and strains of the day. It releases tensions that build up, sometimes out of all proportion. Going for a walk is as good and probably even better than having a rest. Dr Hans Selye said that: ‘voluntary change of activity is as good as a rest’. So when you are feeling tense or anxious, get out of your home or office and walk the tensions away.
Walking recharges our batteries after tension and stress have drained them of power and energy. Walking is as natural as breathing, and it is the regular rhythmical action of walking that drains away tension from our muscles and leaves us with a feeling of pleasant tiredness and a calm, clear mind. Walking works, because as we hit our natural stride, we become unconscious of our body and its movement – we are aware only of the rhythm. We are borne along in a total body-mind experience which makes us whole. Birds fly; fish swim; man walks.