Stress Relief during COVID

The blog post below was featured this week on the Team USA website sponsored by USA Triathlon. These are the people who regularly compete in Ironman triathlons. These triathlons are grueling tests of endurance over 2.4 miles of open water swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and then a full marathon, 26.2 miles.  And just to be clear, that’s all in ONE race for a total of 140.6 miles in 17 hours or less! And what are these athletes talking about these days? The benefits of WALKING. Don’t let anyone tell you that walking is “cheating”. Walking is a sport with HUGE physiological and psychological benefits as described below. Even hardcore athletes can benefit from 10 minutes of walking a day, so you can too!


PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF WALKING

By Deanna Pomfret | Aug. 04, 2020

There’s overwhelming evidence that walking produces health benefits in people especially the older population, individuals who are not currently active and those interested in maintaining a healthy weight. Here are some suggestions on how to take these learnings and apply them to a different context, the already active individual.

Your heart is still working whether you are walking, cycling or swimming. Point is, if you can get outside and walk you are training your cardiovascular system. These cardiovascular benefits are not limited only to when you walk. They show up in your daily life and in your other sports.

Take it to nature. Whether it’s the woods or near the water, exposure to this environment has shown reductions in stress and improved self-reported fitness and mental well-being.

A short walk can help you recover faster. Cortisol is a marker of stress. If you are threatened or challenged physically or emotionally your adrenal glands release more cortisol to help you respond to this stimulus. In the past it was essential to survival in the chase for food and to avoid danger. Today we have many stressors, some that can be avoided and others that are necessary for adaptation and growth. Much of our training for sports is a deliberate stressor, one that is necessary for growth in fitness and performance. This combined with so many of life’s other stressors can easily overwhelm us and prevent us from moving forward.

Walking is considered anabolic or stress reducing. Walking can help manage these stress hormones. A walk in the woods has shown decreased cortisol levels in subjects from numerous studies. This is important for athletes who are seeking an opportunity to recover quicker, spend time with loved ones and continue to move their bodies forward.

This is also extremely important for people who struggle with chronic stress or diseases related to adrenal function such as Addison’s disease. Get out and walk, even if it’s 10 minutes a day.  It reduces stress.

Walking has also been shown to improve one’s own body image. Too often we are too hard on ourselves. We focus on what we feel we should be doing rather than what we are doing. Some people may think that a lighter, stronger version of themselves is a better version of themselves. Appreciate where you are now and embrace what your body can do today and build from here. Walking can help you tune into what is possible today and this is what helps you cross the finish line. Believe in yourself just as you are.

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