Research confirms that walking has a protective effect against depression and anxiety and can increase mood and self-perception

Most Canadians are aware of the physical benefits of walking: performed daily, it can slash the risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 per cent, and colon, breast, or uterine cancer by 20 per cent. Plus, it’s great for weight loss: 150 calories are burned during a 30-minute, brisk jaunt.

But walking is also good for one’s spirit. “Research confirms it has a protective effect against depression and anxiety and can increase mood and self-perception,” says Normand Richard, certified exercise physiologist for HealthyFamiliesBC, adding that the reason for this is likely a combination of increased hormone levels and exposure to a variety of stimuli (assuming one is walking outdoors).

This isn’t merely a short-term fix. The brain requires good blood flow to deliver nutrients and oxygen to its tissues, and walking provides exactly that. So, in addition to elevating one’s spirits, those who walk daily will likely find their quality of sleep vastly improved; and over time, they may notice an improvement in cognitive function. In fact, studies conducted by the University of British Columbia suggest the exercise may even ward off some types of dementia.

Richard says: “Canadian guidelines recommend that people do 30-minute sessions; if someone cannot do that, three 10-minute walks throughout your day has similar health benefits.”

Richard concludes: “The beauty of walking is that it’s such a safe exercise. Make sure you have good shoes with the support you need. If you are starting out, there’s nothing wrong with starting low and going slowly and gradually progressing. And don’t be afraid of variety: you can walk on trails, sidewalks, multi-use paths, or in the mall.”