If you find it hard to focus, you’re feeling a lack of enthusiasm or simply are stressed, a walk during lunch hours might do wonders for you. A new study has found that just with a walk, you could not only improve your physical health, but also raise your mood and fight stress.

Walking is good for you

Walking is good for both your physical and mental heath. Image via Kids Running Wild.

It’s no longer news that walking is good for you; nature walks especially are linked with lower depression and stress, and even creativity can be boosted with a walk. But science mostly focused on the long term effects and gradual outcomes, but this is one of the first studies to document abrupt, day to day and even hour to hour changes in people’s moods following walks.

For this study, researchers at the University of Birmingham first recruited sedentary office workers from the University and asked them to walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch hour three times a week. In total, they recruited 56 middle aged men and women. Walking may not be something physically demanding, but for sedentary middle age people, it’s not easy either.

The volunteers first conducted a baseline set of tests to establish their baseline health and mood. All of them were out of shape, but generally healthy bot physically and mentally. Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author and now a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia divided them into two groups – one which would start the walks right away, and the other one which would start the walks 10 weeks later, initially serving as a control group. After the 10 weeks, the first group was allowed to do as they please (walk or not), but most participants chose to continue the walking schedule.

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Image via Fast.

They then tracked their mood with a specialized app that included a list of questions about their emotions. The questions were designed to see how the volunteers feel at the moment, including questions about stress, tension, enthusiasm, workload, motivation, physical fatigue and other issues. They were asked to answer questions right away, because recalling feelings after a while is much less reliable.

The Results

People who walked reported significantly different results from those who didn’t. Walkers reported feeling more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and better able to deal with whatever the afternoon would bring. The study didn’t directly measure their productivity, but it makes sense that more relaxed and less stressed employees are more productive.

“There is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,” Dr. Thogersen-Ntoumani said. “So we would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive.”

To make things even better, when health tests were conducted after the study, those who walked more showed better fitness.

So, the takeaway message is: if you have a sedentary job, if you spend most of the day at an office or sitting down someplace, an afternoon walk can do wonders for both your physical and mental health; it will also improve your mood.

Journal Reference: Thøgersen-Ntoumani C, Loughren EA, Kinnafick FE, Taylor IM, Duda JL, Fox KR. Changes in work affect in response to lunchtime walking in previously physically inactive employees: A randomized trial. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Jan 6. doi: 10.1111/sms.12398