Most of us have heard that significant amounts of exercise can reduce stress and anxiety as well as promote serotonin. But what happens if you don’t exercise every day, or maybe don’t do traditional gym workouts? Does the same rule of thumb apply? I explored this through using walking as my main form of exercise for the week. I did this not only because it is the most practical but also because, as UCLA students know, walking to class is no small task.
Walking everyday has been something that I have learned to appreciate, especially since UCLA’s campus is so beautiful. The plus to this form of exercise is that you get to explore nature while walking around wherever you are. Seeing the native animals that live in the neighborhood is really special.
The first few days I took the walking easy by just leisurely strolling around and not really rushing to go anywhere, and honestly it made me feel happier. Clearing my head while watching everyone rush past to class was a freeing experience and something I hadn’t really done in a while. I paid attention to the trees and watched as some leaves fell to the ground around me. This left me happy for a few hours after and made me feel a sense of accomplishment each day.
I then tracked my more strenuous walks including rushing to make it on time to my classes. I was no longer just wandering around for the fun of it but actually stressed out and walking much faster. This increased my heart rate to an exercise level that I am used to. Although at the moment it was more work, it seemed to be making me feel more aware of my mood. I was less likely to be frustrated throughout the day and my sense of productivity went up. This was the most strenuous form of exercise I chose because nothing gets my heart rate higher than potentially being late!
As for my last walking speed, I chose not to track levels. I didn’t stress out over anything but I also didn’t take my time. I chose not to pay attention to my heart rate or what “counted” and instead I just walked and ran and honestly just had fun. I was with my family and we weren’t on campus, and the change of scenery felt more motivating. I liked how I felt after, and I decided for sure what the best method was and how it had made me feel:
Fun is the answer. I think doing something you love and not focusing on what counts is the best way to reduce anxiety and stress while improving your overall mood for the rest of the day. If this is not an option or you care more about physical results rather than the more mentally freeing approach, definitely opt in for the more strenuous approach.
For those of us who have to walk everyday for classes anyways, just remember that you are exercising and being more mindful about your surroundings. Appreciating your necessary daily walks can significantly improve your general mood!