In fact, exercise, and walking in particular, is known to be an excellent therapy for treating depression and anxiety. Steady walking has been shown to promote the release of endorphins , hormones that make us feel happy and relaxed, while reducing the production of stress hormone cortisol.
Additionally, neuroscientists at Princeton University believe that the effects of a healthy walk go beyond the momentary production of some neurotransmitters, and believe that regular walking can even help regenerate the brain by helping us cope better and with less stress. everyday problems.
The “calming neurons” in the brain
These researchers worked with two groups of guinea pigs, one group remained active and the other destined for a sedentary life. After walking, the scientists analyzed their brains and found that in animals that had been doing physical activity, some neurons were activated that inhibited the activity of overly excited nerve cells.
Then they added a bit of environmental stress and found excitable neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in emotional responses to activate. However, walking animals could better cope with this brain activation as even “calming neurons” were activated to prevent the impact of the situation from being excessive and to keep stress under control.
These results, which neuroscientists also consider valuable to humans, could explain why walking helps us relax and forget worries and pains. Everything indicates that when we walk, the brain activates the “calming neurons” that inhibit the level of excitation of the neurons that are the basis of worries, musings and stress.
This indicates that physical activity helps to reorganize the brain , so that people who walk and are regularly active are less likely to suffer from high levels of anxiety and stress is less likely to interfere with their daily lives. Basically, walking improves the inhibition mechanism that prevents the most excitable nerve cells from becoming hyperactive.
To get the maximum benefit from the hike, it is best to choose a path surrounded by nature
It is not the same to walk on a conveyor belt, between the four walls of a gym, in the city or in the middle of nature. Neuroscientists at Heriot-Watt University demonstrated this by monitoring the brain activity of 12 people as they walked for 25 minutes in a shopping mall, in a green space and on a busy street. The mobile EEG monitored emotions and states such as frustration, meditation, enthusiasm, and attention.
They then found that relaxation and meditation were more intense when the subjects walked through green spaces. These people also felt less frustrated. This is because in the green spaces our brain can completely disconnect and activate what is called “involuntary attention “, which has the ability to move freely in a state quite similar to mindfulness meditation.
On the contrary, in the streets and shopping centers we have to be more attentive, so we do not have the opportunity to completely disconnect from our worries and not allow our brain to rest.