While walking can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, these specific tweaks to your walking routine can make your daily stroll an even more effective mood booster and disease fighter.
By Lauren Gelman
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Stroll outside, with friends
A British study of nearly 2,000 adults found that those who’d recently endured a major life stressor (job loss, divorce, the death of a loved one) experienced a significant mood boost after they took a walk outside with others. A group nature walk may be a “very powerful, under-utilized stress buster,” senior study author Sara L. Warber, MD, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, said in a press release. Here are more non-food ways to boost your mood.
Bring your pooch
In a University of Missouri study, people who walked with a dog increased their walking speed by 28 percent over a 12-week period, while those who walked with a friend or spouse only increased their pace by 4 percent. People tend to whine or talk each other out of workouts, while dogs are always up for a stroll, study author Rebecca Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Missouri, told Women’s Health.
Add a spring to your step
Your gait can impact your mood, according to Canadian research. People were shown a list with both positive (“pretty”) and negative (“afraid”) words, then walked on a treadmill in either a depressed style—shoulders hunched forward, arms dangling—or a more upbeat way. Hunched-over people remembered far more negative words than those who had a happier pace. Skipping your way down the street may help trick your body into feeling more happy and energetic. Don’t miss these other natural energy boosters.
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Walk for 15 minutes to quell a sugar craving
People who walked before doing an office assignment snacked on half the amount of chocolate as people who didn’t get any exercise beforehand, according to a study in the journal Appetite.
Walk after every meal to steady your blood sugar
A quick post-meal walk helps clear sugar from the blood, preventing spikes that can take a toll on people with diabetes or who are at risk of developing it, according to a 2013 study in Diabetes Care. These lifestyle habits can also help you achieve healthier blood sugar levels.
Put your phone away
More than 1,500 pedestrians were estimated to be treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2010 for injuries related to using a cell phone while walking—a number that’s more than doubled since 2005. And it’s likely a gross underestimate of injuries, since not all people who are hurt go to the ER. Tempted to text or sneak a peek at your email? Just don’t.
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Use a tracker for motivation
It’s 7 p.m. and you’ve logged 9,400 steps—what happens next? You’ll probably find a way to squeeze in another 600 to hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day. In a 2013 study from Indiana University, adults who wore a pedometer for 12 weeks reduced their average sitting time from 4 hours a day to 3.3. They also lost about 2.5 pounds each. Here are other surprising ways your fitness tracker affects your health.