Walking is a passion of mine, something I now get the urge to do. Once upon a time I couldn’t go out the door without freaking out. When we moved ‘up the hill’ both G and I lost weight. That was all thanks to the amount of walking we were doing, and we felt amazing. A few months in and the number of walks we would do per week dropped a little and that combined with a current craving for crisps and hot chocolates has meant that our jeans are beginning to feel a little tight once more.
Things have got to change. I don’t mind my body but I can’t tell you how good it felt to have a good solid behind again after moving here. I want that butt back and that means one thing…I’ve got to make an effort to increase my fitness and do some exercise!
My mission began last week with a five and a bit mile walk over British Camp. British Camp is part of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. The height reaches 1,109 feet, so it’s an excellent walk to do if you want to walk to lose weight and work on your bum and legs, because they certainly do get a work out. The Iron Age hill fort dates back to the 2nd Century BC (the earthworks that is, not the hill itself, that’s ancient!) but I am not going to give you a history lesson; you can click the link here to learn more if you’re interested. What I want to do is tell you about the benefits of walking to get fit and to help fight off anxiety disorders and depression.
Walking is one of the treatments that can be used to ease the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress and there are many people who claim it has cured them – myself included to a degree. The problem I, and many others, have is actually getting outside in the first place. The second problem is dealing with a raised heartbeat – something I used to have serious problems with and I still sometimes feel uncomfortable with it. Work through this problem by:
- Beginning with short walks and gradually increase speed and distance. Start in your own garden or walking up and down your road – even to the end of the drive will do. Just start, go outside at least once a day and help yourself learn that you can go outside and survive.
- Exercise in the home and get used to having a fast heartbeat. Sadly, anxiety can cause your heart palpitations that then lead on to worrying about having heart attacks or passing out. What we need to do is stop associating a racing heart with panic and associate it with exercise and fitness instead. Begin with gentle exercise in the home and allow your heart to begin to race a little to start with. Remind yourself that this exercise is strengthening your heart, it is a muscle that is getting stronger thanks to the exercise you’re doing. This is something I still have to do when I hear my heart pounding – my heart is getting a great work out, making it stronger to keep me healthy – nothing more.
- If you are very scared of increasing your heart rate and hearing your heart I do recommend going to see your doctor and asking about exercise before you start. Your doctor will be able to give you advice on how much exercise you can do to start with and reassure you. Listen to your doctor and take in what you are told. How many of us panic attackers are quick to believe the hideous things Google tells us about our health yet don’t believe our doctors when they tell us our symptoms and worries are down to anxiety?
- You can go with your friend, pet or alone, whatever works best for you. There are many walking groups to join if you want to meet new people too.
Mental Health and Fitness Benefits of Walking
So what are the actual benefits of walking and fighting your demons to make yourself start? Well, let’s see:
- A lack of exercise can increase anxiety as it is released in the brain instead of through the body.
- Walking is a great distraction for the mind. There are things to see, smell and touch. Take in everything you see and focus on nature and your surroundings – this keeps your mind busy and away from all the usual things that cause anxiety (obviously this isn’t fool proof as we all have different triggers, like the heart rate was a trigger for me).
- Walking helps you to regain some control. You feel good for doing something positive. You dictate the level you do, how far you go and when you want to take a break.
- Walking gives you time and space to think. It’s a great way to find solutions and come up with new ideas that will drive you forward.
- You are strengthening your heart when you go for a walk. Remember, raising your heart rate is good for your circulatory system (so all those panic attacks must have been my workout in the past!).
- Walking helps to reduce and prevent high blood pressure. It also reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.
- Walking increases muscle mass and increases your metabolism.
- You can burn around 75 calories in a 30 minute walk. The amount of calories you burn does depend on the speed you walk and the terrain – you will obviously burn more calories and work bum and leg muscles more by walking up hills.
- Walking strengthens your bones!
- Your bum, legs and tummy all get toned thanks to a good walk. If you, like me, want to improve the definition of your legs and make your butt look perky then it is important to think about your posture as you walk. Concentrate on lengthening your spine, pull your tummy muscles in along with your pelvic muscle and pick routes that have plenty of hills and your body will be stronger and toned in no time.
- Walking gives you more energy, something that can sometimes be missing in those suffering with depression and anxiety. That energy can help you to remain active throughout the day but also helps you to sleep at night – just avoid exercising at night.
- Endorphins make you feel good and can be used to reduce depression, stress and anxiety.
Tips to Fight off Panic Attacks
- Be positive in your thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones as soon as the negative ones begin to make an appearance. Don’t give bad thoughts any head space! This takes time and practice but it really has made a difference in my life.
- Stand up against panic and anxiety. The most amazing thing happened to me when I decided I was no longer going to allow panic attacks to rule my life after 20 years. I don’t know how I got to that place but once I did there was no turning back, just a commitment to reclaim my life. I was sick to death of it all and I wasn’t going to allow panic attacks to control me any more.
- When the panic begins to flow, tell it to come on in and hurry up. You have survived panic attacks before and you know you will survive the next ones. So don’t be afraid of it, let your body do its thing and ride it out. I know how stupid this may sound to someone in the throes of panic, but I promise you that when you’re ready this is a method that works. When your brain realises you are no longer scared the panic attack dies as it has nothing to feed on.