The many mental health benefits of hitting the pavement
By Brandon Yip, Contributor
June is the perfect month to be outdoors. It has been very difficult to enjoy the outdoors with social distancing restrictions implemented in March. Despite the pandemic, people are still enjoying walks in their neighbourhoods and at local parks and trails (maintaining proper social distancing of course). But for me, walking has always been a part of my exercise routine as I try to walk four to five times per week.
Walking is good for one’s physical and mental health. I do not like running, though I understand it is a great form of cardio and you will burn more calories than walking. A NBC News article about the mental health benefits of walking revealed that frequent walking has shown to improve a person’s memory and prevent brain tissue from weakening as we age. In addition, psychologists who have researched how exercise aids in reducing depression and anxiety recommend that even a walk for 10 minutes may be just as beneficial as a workout for 45 minutes in alleviating anxiety and improving mood. Furthermore, a Mayo Clinic article states that walking helps maintain a beneficial weight, strengthens muscles and bones, and helps people with heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes—and coordination!
Ryan Wildgrube, a recent graduate of the Douglas College Psychiatric Nursing Program, says regular walking has benefitted his overall physical and mental health, “When I walk I don’t focus on the entire path I focus on where I am and try to absorb and take in where I am. Part of the reason I walk is for my mental health and my physical health. It has helped me lose weight and honestly it is also a great time to think about things. Exercise has been proven to help people’s mood as it releases the so-called ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins, which I certainly have felt help me keep pretty levelheaded during this stressful time.”
I enjoy walking around Town Centre Park, which is close to the David Lam Campus. And across the street from the campus is Lafarge Lake where people can walk, jog, fish or gaze at the lovely water fountain placed in the middle of the lake. Another option in the area for people to walk around is the track at Percy Perry Stadium. The lights are turned on at dusk and the park is open until 11 pm. Since COVID-19 emerged, it had been difficult to walk around Town Centre Park with no washrooms to use. However, washrooms were reopened on May 9 with the City of Coquitlam website urging the public, “Please maintain a safe distance when using.”
But lately with the weather being so nice and sunny, I find it difficult walking in the Lafarge Lake area because there are too many people. Another area that I like to walk is the DeBoville Slough Trail, located at 4100 Cedar Drive in Coquitlam. I usually walk about 5 km. The trail is especially enjoyable when the weather is beautiful and sunny—it makes for a great place to walk. The walk is well worth it as you get a scenic view of the Pitt River and Coastal Mountains. Although, during the summertime, people need to be cautious as black bears pop up!
But like anybody, there are some days when I am not motivated to go for a walk. But I try to push and force myself to get out of my house and just do it! So, before the summer ends, go outside and walk (while maintaining proper social distancing) and enjoy the weather. And more importantly, inhale the nice fresh air, walk lots, and work out those legs. Your brain will thank you!