Stressed, Depressed, Uninspired? Take a Walk!

Lucy Bailey, Editor in Chief

Bad days are universal.

You’re in an argument. Your hair looks horrible. You lost the most crucial game of the season. You’re procrastinating about writing your college essay. Regardless of the circumstances, you feel trapped. How do you snap out of it? Science may have the answer.

It may sound redundant, but all the systems of our body are connected. For example, the cardiovascular system and respiratory system are intertwined (breathing), as well as the endocrine and digestive system (insulin production). So naturally, new studies are finding that walking regularly promotes better memory, attention, even creativity.

When we take a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs – including the brain. Scientists believe that the improved blood flow can boost connections between neurons and also carry nutrients and growth signals that nerve cells need to thrive, according to . Exercise also increases levels of beneficial hormones and brain chemicals.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) confirms that walking can actually increase the volume of the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved in memory) thus lowering the risk of dementia particularly for elderly people.

We young folks can benefit from walking as well. Professors of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois found that physical activity may increase students’ ability to pay attention and also results in better performance on academic achievement tests (SATs, anyone?).

Since the times of the ancient Greek philosophers, many writers have discovered the deep, natural connection between walking, thinking, and writing. A research report from Stanford University concludes that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and physical activity.”

To those who are still doubtful, just try it. You never know. Fresh air, nature, and some physical movement may be all we need to improve our overall health and well-being. And you don’t have to be a ‘hippie’ to reap these benefits.