Dear Patients and Friends
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the globe, there are mounting cases of mental health issues as many individuals experience countless hardships. Cases of loneliness, anxiety, and depression have risen to worrisome levels.
Many people feel a desperate need to establish healthy routines.
Social media platforms may encourage trendy exercise streaming services or immune-boosting diets to address wellness.
However, I believe that a simple, free activity can serve as an anchor for people of all demographic groups regardless of fitness level: the humble daily walk.
Walking provides countless benefits, including maintaining weight, easing joint pain, decreasing risk of cardiovascular diseases, combating depressive symptoms, improving memory, and lengthening lifespans.
Walking has also been shown to improve immune system function, mainly by reducing stress hormones.
Walking can help prepare your body to ward off potential infection.
But more importantly, walking can provide mental health and social benefits that combat the negative effects of social isolation.
Despite stay home requests, be assured that getting outside for a walk or other activity is safe and encouraged. Especially here in the high desert, where spaces are wide and open. Public health officials support outdoor activities, even in times of pandemic. Officials note to pick paths that are less crowded, and avoid individuals coughing or sneezing to prevent accidental inhalation of aerosols.
True, some individuals are experiencing the pinnacle of stress and hardships. Physical and outdoor activities may feel out of reach or not a priority. However, as nurse researchers who study how to improve physical activity for adults in Chicago communities, increasing daily walking time is something most people can realistically and easily do to improve physical and mental health, especially during difficult times.
To get the best results out of your walk, add some mindfulness. During mindful walking, pay careful attention to all five senses with each breath and step. Take time to notice the sounds and sights of nature. Spring is now here: Note the new growth emerging from the winter ground. Look at the trees and brush around you: new leaves are growing.
Actively take deep breaths, and as you inhale, count to three, and exhale to a count of three.
While we do have to maintain a safe social distance right now, we can still smile and nod as we pass each other. Simply acknowledging community members can bolster a sense of social belonging.
While the future seems uncertain right now, we can take part in activities that help our mind and body. Your best defense against the ill repercussions of social distancing may be as simple as taking a walk.
Dr. Christian Reichardt
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