The benefits of walking…simply putting one foot in front of the other is all it takes to improve mood

By Claudia Tanner

The mere act of putting one foot in front of the other for a few minutes can significantly boost our mood, a study has discovered.
And it doesn’t matter where we do it, why we do it, who we do it with, or what effect we expect the walk to have.
Psychologists say the happiness-causing effects arise from the actual physical movement which is connected to how we evolved to move to find food and other rewards.
The researchers say their study is the first to show this by stripping away all the many factors associated with exercise – such as getting fresh air, being in nature and the satisfaction of reaching fitness goals.
Essentially, ‘movement not only causes increased positive affect [emotional feelings] … but movement partially embodies, or in a sense reflects, positive affect,’ the study authors from The Iowa State University wrote in the paper published in the journal Emotion.
How the research was carried out
Across three studies, the team tested hundreds of undergraduate students who were not aware of the true aims of the research to avoid biased answers.
Two of the studies showed that students who spent 12 minutes on a group walking tour of campus buildings, or on a dull walking tour on their own of the interior of a campus building, reported more positive mood.
This was compared to another group who sat and looking at photographs of the same campus tour, or watched a video of the same building interior tour.
In a second study, positive mood effects were also found even when researchers induced ‘dread’ in the participants before their walk, by instructing them that after the walk they had to write a two-page essay afterwards.
In the final study, students spent 10 minutes watching a Saatchi Gallery video alone, one, in three groups who were either sitting, standing or walking on a treadmill.
Once again, at the end, the students who’d spent time walking reported more positive mood scores than those who had been sitting or standing.
Authors Jeffrey Miller and Zlatan Krizan wrote: ‘People may underestimate the extent to which just getting off their couch and going for a walk will benefit their mood as they focus on momentarily perceived barriers rather than eventual mood benefits.’
A mother-of-two almost died after scratching her nose caused a life-threatening infection that ravaged her face.
Anita Clark, 50, was terrified when her face doubled in size and a huge blister developed across both cheeks.
The community nurse from Clayton, Manchester, had no idea what was wrong until doctors noticed a small scratch inside one of her nostrils.
Ms Clark had developed cellulitis – a life-threatening infection that can cause sepsis or kidney damage if not treated quickly.
She said: ‘I was terrified, at times I thought that my face would never go back to normal. I thought I’d end up with skin of an alligator, because the cellulitis made my cheeks really crusty.’
‘I thought I’d end up with skin of an alligator’
After developing severe facial swelling, Ms Clark was admitted to hospital where she was immediately given antibiotics for cellulitis.
She said: ‘They told me that my cellulitis may have been caused by make-up brushes, but I very highly doubt that as I only ever use a blusher brush on my cheeks sometimes.
‘It was then that they noticed a tiny scratch on the inside of my nostril.
‘They think that either bacteria from when I was in the garden had got in to the cut, or just sweat bacteria, had caused cellulitis in my face.’
It took five weeks for her face to go back to normal, with doctors worried it had damaged her eyes.
Ms Clark said: ‘I was terrified, at times I thought that my face would never go back to normal.
‘I thought I’d end up with skin of an alligator, because the cellulitis made my cheeks really crusty.
‘I was in hospital for nine days taking regular antibiotics to try and get the fluid out of my face.
‘Because my skin was so full of fluid it started oozing out of my skin.
She said: ‘It gradually started to crust over and smell appallingly, but luckily that didn’t last for too long.
‘I had X-rays and eye scans to make sure that the cellulitis wasn’t going to be fatal, or cause me to go blind or anything.
‘Fortunately it didn’t reach my eyes enough to make me go blind, so I thank my blessings for that.’

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