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Our brains are barraged by the world around us, which can make us distracted, agitated, even anxious.

“Walking is a reset,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Udler, LCSW-C, of Positive Strides Therapy in Potomac, Md. “It’s a chance to take a break and let your thoughts simmer down and settle so you’re able to see things more clearly. Walking is a preventive measure that helps restore your nervous system to a calmer state.”

Udler even uses walking in her therapy: She meets clients for walk-and-talk sessions, which she says offer them the calming benefits of a walk while encouraging them to let down their guard and speak more openly than they might in a traditional office setting.

One reason walking is so powerful is that it involves bilateral stimulation, or rhythmic movement on alternating sides of the body, she explains. “When you walk, you’re integrating emotion and logic by activating both sides of your body.”

“Walking is a reset. It’s a chance to take a break and let your thoughts simmer down and settle so you’re able to see things more clearly.”

Even walking on a treadmill can offer mental-health benefits, though studies have found that going for a stroll in nature is especially effective. A 2015 study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to those who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression.

Another study, published in 2019, indicates that walking (or sitting) in nature can significantly lower levels of the stress hor­mone cortisol. “Research shows that breathing fresh air and seeing green space while walking is calming, energizing, and a mood lifter,” says Udler. “If you’re suffering from ruminating thoughts, walking takes you out of your head and into the world. Having moments that interrupt your usual thought pattern allows you to remember that you’re part of the bigger picture.”

Carlos Reynes, MD, a functional-medicine specialist in Oak Park, Ill., believes so strongly in the value of walking that he commutes the two miles to and from his office each day on foot. “The morning walk gets my blood circulating, and it helps my mind get into the zone so that by the time I get to my office, I’m ready to work. Walking home allows me to get over the stress of work and transition so that I’m ready to be home.”

This was excerpted from “The Powerful Health Benefits of Walking” which was published in Experience Life magazine.

Nicole Radziszewski

Nicole Radziszewski is a writer and personal trainer in River Forest, Ill. She blogs at

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