While the physical benefits of walking are well documented, a multitude of studies have shown the mental health benefits of walking are real, and potentially, immediate. So real, in fact, that many active adults are seeking out lifestyle communities that offer instant access to walking trails, such as The Preserve at Bancroft Ridge in Bancroft, Ontario.
“The Preserve is a walker’s paradise”, says John Puffer, President of the popular development. “We purposefully chose this property for its proximity to nature trails, including the legendary Hastings Heritage Trail, one of the most scenic and fascinating walks in the country”.
In addition to the more languid pace of life in active adult communities located outside busy cities, easy access to exercise – and to experience the mental health benefits of walking – are proving to be a nice value add.
Health expert Sarah Wilson states that walking helps shut off the amygdala, the primitive part of the brain that deals with anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that exercise releases feel-good hormones. In fact, a single vigorous walking session can help alleviate anxiety symptoms for hours and may significantly reduce them over time with a regular routine.
Does replacing one hour of sitting with one hour of walking each day prevent depression? Yes, according to a 2019 Harvard Medical School study. Harvard professor Dr. Michael Craig Miller says that walking not only helps prevent depression, but can also act as an effective ‘treatment’ for those already experiencing it.
Some call it “brain fog”, others just mental fatigue. Whatever the moniker, it impairs your ability to make decisions, reduces concentration and is a symptom of sleep deprivation, nutritional deficiency and other issues. Harvard researchers suggest that walking at a moderate pace for one hour, twice a week, reduces brain fog and increases the ability to problem solve.
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known to conduct ‘walking meetings’. Why? Big ideas seem to come while walking. During a series of experiments, Stanford University researchers found that a person generated twice as many creative responses when walking, compared to a seated person. “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
In a recent study of 299 adults (mean age: 78 years) the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study examined the association between various walking amounts and its effect on grey matter volume and cognitive impairment. More walking (56 blocks on average) showed greater volumes of frontal, occipital, entorhinal, and hippocampal regions and a 2-fold risk reduction for cognitive impairment.