Walking to combat SAD: The power of outdoor movement

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As the seasons shift and colder weather sets in, many of us retreat indoors, often overlooking the invigorating potential of outdoor activities. In this article, we delve into the benefits of walking, especially during colder times, and its impact on combating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Our platform, WeWard, encourages walking not just as a physical activity but also as a way to enrich mental health and societal connections, and highlights the importance of maintaining this simple yet effective habit in all seasons.

The science behind walking and mental health

Walking, a fundamental physical activity, plays a crucial role in boosting mental health, particularly in the colder months. This is not just a casual observation but a fact backed by science. The brisk air of winter can amplify the production of endorphins and dopamine, neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

"It's a mechanical effect. The verticality imposed by walking loosens the trapezius muscles, the upper back, the jaws, even the teeth... Walking forces us to let go of those high tensions in our backs, necks and shoulders that build up when we're stressed. This physical relaxation immediately induces psychic relaxation", stresses psychotherapist Pierre-Yves Brissiaud.

Outdoor movement in cold weather: A natural antidote to SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression related to seasonal changes, often peaks during winter. The shorter days and reduced sunlight can disrupt our circadian rhythms, leading to feelings of fatigue and moodiness. Walking outdoors, even in cold weather, ensures exposure to natural light, which is essential in regulating our internal clock. Exposure to natural light during winter walks can help reset our biological clocks, mitigating the effects of SAD.

The surprising benefits of walking in colder climates

Contrary to popular belief, walking in cold weather can have additional health benefits. The effort to stay warm increases cardiovascular activity, thus improving heart health. Moreover, walking on snow or ice requires more energy, enhancing the physical benefits of the activity. A study in the American Journal of Human Biology also found that people burn 34% more calories when they hike in cold weather than they do in more mild conditions.

Establishing a routine is crucial for reaping the benefits of walking in winter. WeWard users have shown that incorporating walks into daily activities, such as commuting or running errands, can significantly increase walking time. The app's gamification elements make this process enjoyable, encouraging users to embrace walking as a regular part of their day, regardless of the weather.

A step towards improved mental and physical health

In conclusion, walking, especially in colder weather, is an underutilized tool in combating mental health issues like SAD. By integrating this simple activity into our daily lives, we can improve not only our physical well-being but also our mental health. WeWard, through its innovative approach to encouraging walking, plays a pivotal role in this journey, helping users transform a mundane activity into a rewarding habit that benefits both the individual and the environment.

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