We are currently enjoying a very prolonged fall season here in Northern California. In fact, it has been so mild it could probably pass for summertime temperatures in many other places. Low to mid 80’s have been the norm for what seems like weeks with no end in sight. At least not for the next 10 days. Along with the fantastic weather, it has been hard not to notice how many people continue to get outside throughout the day and walk, run, hike or bike on the many pathways we have nearby. In writing for Psychologytoday, Dr. Sarah Gingell reiterates that many of us are already aware of how consistent inactivity can have a negative impact on us physically. She also states that many of us do not consider the impact that inactivity can have on our mental health. Although there are likely many contributing factors to a diminished mental health, physical inactivity can play a significant role.
There are immediate benefits to getting outside on a brisk walk or going to the gym. Focusing on the physical task at hand can give our minds a needed break from the stress and anxiety that life can bring. It also feels motivating and uplifting to be out there with other like-minded individuals. In terms of effects on longer-term mental health, Dr. Gingell states that, in many instances, exercise appears to be as effective as many pharmaceutical interventions across a range of conditions such as mild to moderate depression, dementia and anxiety.
We our practice we continue to place an emphasis on “walking sessions” in order to help people get outside. Both for the short-term positive effect of getting the body moving and the long-term effects of having the weekly “walking session” just be one of perhaps 3-4 routine weekly exercise sessions that we work to maintain as part of a healthy lifestyle.