Often when we think of exercise, we think we must be squeezing ourselves into lycra and buying an expensive gym membership. However, if you’re looking for a way to boost your fitness and your mood all in one go – take a few minutes and go for a walk.

Within just 5 minutes of starting any form of exercise your mood is being boosted, helping you to feel happier and low to moderate exercise is seen often as being better to help with boosting your mood than high impact.

Walk to beat stress                                                                                                                                     

Going for a short walk can help to reduce your stress levels, taking a break from something which may be causing you frustration. This gives your brain chance to work through your options without making a quick decision.

It can help you to get out of your own head if you practice mindful walking at the same time, focusing on what is around you –taking notice of it and not just running over the situation again and again in your head. Why not really look around you, notice what’s around you, what can you see, hear or smell? What’s the weather like? Give your mind a chance to find a moment of calm.

It also helps to loosen up tight muscles. If you’re sat at your desk, frustrated by a situation you’re facing, your shoulders, arms, back are all likely to be feeling your stress as well as your mind. A quick walk can help to relax these muscles.

Burn calories rather than eating them

A lot of people turn to food or drink during times of stress, it’s so easy and comforting to do. Munching our way through calories we don’t really want or need.

The distraction of going for a short walk helps to break this cycle. It helps to give us time to decide whether we really want to eat our body weight in chocolate and crisps, or whether just having that time away and burning off some calories can change this desire and behaviour.

Green spaces are best

If you’re looking to reduce your stress levels even further and maximise the calming effect of your walk, head for a park or forest – the greener the better. The added bonus of feeling like we’re with nature helps to supercharge the effect of walking.

Take a friend

If you’re not feeling comfortable or confident about walking on your own, why not encourage a friend or work colleague to go with you. Chat about something or nothing, play random games, see what you can spot and enjoy the company.

Wake up your mind

Walking, along with other exercise, increases the amount of blood flowing to your brain. Studies have shown that walking regularly can boost your ability to think and remember things. It can also help to protect your brain from age-related shrinkage, improving memory and emotions no matter your age.

Boost your mood and relieve depression

Any form of exercise helps you to release your body’s own happiness hormones – endorphins. It’s very common for mental health practitioners and doctors to recommend taking a walk as often as possible to people with depression or low moods as it’s an easy, natural way of boosting these hormones within our bodies, helping us to feel a little better.

Depression can be very serious and potentially life-threatening, so if you are feeling very low, please consult your doctor, call Samaritans on 116123 or call 111.