Walking for mental wellbeing: taking steps to refocus your mind

With both Mental Health Awareness Week and National Walking Month falling this week in May, we’ve been examining the two concepts side by side; how can walking regularly help to improve your mental, as well as physical, health? How can it help improve the effectiveness of your employees?

Making small, healthy changes can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing. Let's explore ways businesses can encourage employees to get walking and how to work walking into your new work from home routine.

Why we need to prioritise walking to improve mental health

The NHS recommends that adults should be active for around 150 minutes a week, yet around a quarter (26%) of UK adults are doing fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity. HR professionals have a great opportunity to get their staff active with walking whilst working from home; the Mental Health Foundation found that addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by around 12%.

Mind shares that physical activity overall can be an effective tool for managing stress, and can help to improve mood with the release of endorphins that will make for better sleep. Walking is an easy and accessible form of exercise that can be completed at any level of physical fitness, costs nothing and can fit in with the most hectic of schedules. It will help to reduce the amount of stress and mental health-related absences.

Tips to increase your step count

Here are some ideas to help you get walking:

  1. Walking meetings - we know working from home means a more sedentary lifestyle for most, as the commute accounted for a large portion of your daily step count. With back to back zoom calls, exercise might be at the back of your mind (at best), but you can combine the two with a walking meeting to get you active whilst chatting to colleagues. The increased blood flow from exercise can help you to focus and inspire some great ideas.
  2. Walk together - Walk with your significant other, family member or someone else in your household; line up your schedules to take breaks together, you’re less likely to ditch it that way! It’s also a way for both of you to escape the same four walls and spend some quality time together.
  3. Get amongst the greenery - Being out in nature is known to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is also easy to be mindful and self-aware out in the tranquillity of nature; Combining this good feeling with that of walking can be a real mood booster. Plus there are studies that show that nature goes further than we think and just 10-15 minutes outdoors improves your mental attitude.

What YuLife has found

YuLife is dedicated to helping HR professionals inspire their workforce to live healthier lives. With the YuLife app, users are rewarded for going on walks and using mindfulness apps, using a virtual leaderboard to inspire healthy competition amongst work friends.

The stats say it all; 67% of users agree that they live healthier lifestyles as a result of using YuLife. We’ve also collated data from walking activity before and during the UK lockdown, which shows a 39% increase in users taking long walks. The average daily step count of a YuLifer is 7,049, over double the UK average of 3,100.

Walk to improve your mental wellbeing this month

Whether your employers are regular runners or an absolute fitness novice, walking is a great way to keep physically and mentally fit. During walking month and mental health awareness week, now is a great time to get in touch and ensure that your employees feel cared for and covered, and are aware of everything that is available to them if they’re struggling mentally.

Click here to get in touch and learn more about how Yulife is inspiring life every day.

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Sophie Hibbert

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