TrekDesk has written a lot over the years about the importance of walking through out the day to enhance health backed by hundreds of studies focusing on distance, duration and walking speeds however little has been written about specific styles of walking. A new study shows that style definitely makes a difference.

 

The study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research found that how we walk is an important component to mental health.

 

 

 

Walking Style Affects Mood

 

Many of us recognize when friends are co-workers seem sad or depressed simply by noting the way they walk, slow and slump shouldered, lacking any pep in their step. What many may not realize is that by mimicking a happier gait their moods can be altered and in very short order.

 

The study involved showing test subjects a list of negative and/or positive words then measuring their gate and posture while they walked on a treadmill. A screen showed participants a left/right moving gauge indicative of their mood though they had no previous knowledge of its relevancy. Researchers prompted study participants to move the gauge in specific directions (left or right). Researchers also had study subjects walk with less arm movement and shoulders slumped forward or in a more active style of motion.

 

Participants were then tested on the words they could remember from the earlier lists of words provided. Those walking in a depressed manner were able to list significantly more negative words than positive. The inability to diffuse negative events is a major tenant of clinical depression and researchers believe that mood, motion and memory are intertwined. In effect a depressed walking style heightens the risk for a depressed mood, while a positive, assertive walking style promotes happiness. The study bore out this hypothesis.

 

This effect has been shown in previous studies on the effect of smiling and laughing where test subjects were found to decrease depression symptoms simply by forcing more smiles and laughter into their day.

 

Positive moods have previously been found to increase creativity and productivity and we have reported on hundreds of studies that show the physical and mental health benefits of walking slowly through out the work day.

 

The take away from these studies is simple. If you are striving to stay happy and health in life – stay in motion during the day, put some pep in your step and a smile on your face.

 

Summary: Suffering long commutes may also be negatively impacting mental health new research discovers.

Commuting

Care to feel less stressed at work and improve concentration levels at the same time? Ditch the car commute; walk, cycle or take mass transit says a new study out of the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School.

 

It appears that those long hours spent in traffic during daily work commutes are doing more harm than a slight bump in blood pressure caused by other’s poor driving etiquette, it’s actually affecting our mental and physical health.

 

The UEA studay analyzed 18 years of data on approximately 18,000 subjects in Britain aged 18-65 years old. They were able to tabulate data on sleep, happiness, coping skills, and feelings of control/worthlessness. The study was also able to control for the various factors that often impact wellbeing such as family size, relationship challenges, income, commuting time and job/residence changes.

 

Don’t Drive- Be Happy!

 

What they uncovered was significant, especially for those who spend long hours in cars during daily commutes. The study found a significant correlation between declines in psychological wellbeing and commuting times in singular vehicles. The longer individuals spent commuting by car the worse their levels of psychological wellbeing. Conversely individuals walking or cycling to work scored much higher on psychological wellbeing analysis. Mass transit scored as a better option than singular commutes presumably due to social interactions, movement and relaxation opportunities not available to regular commuting.

 

 

Walking or cycling to work has also been shown to have many positive health benefits in previous studies as well. The Imperial College London and the Public Health Foundation of India found that individuals that walked or cycled to work had lower rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. In the case of diabetes the rate was 40% less for those walking/cycling to work.

 

What about walking at work? Are the findings similar? Actually, yes. The consistent factor in these studies is the effect of compiled sedentary time over the course of the day. Walking and cycling to work is a great way to orient the brain and body in a more healthy direction for the day however for many in America the opportunity to walk or cycle to work is non-existent. Mass transit appears to be a better option but again for many this is not an option either. We have also learned that the positive effects of morning exercise can be rapidly undone if the rest of the day is spent sitting in a chair.

 

The message is clear that motion and social interaction need to be introduced into daily activities as much as possible for optimal mental and physical well being. Walking at work with a treadmill desk is one option for those who have no other opportunity for movement throughout the day however, these studies show that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to impact the health of our nation on a major scale.

Ever sat on the couch feeling guilty about not being active yet unable to find the motivation to do something about it?

 

Walk More to Prevent Trips to the Hospital

Blame your dorsal medial habenula say University of Washington researchers.

While Americans cite lack of time as their primary reason for not exercising, lack of motivation ranks a close second. We consistently promote the TrekDesk Treadmill Desk as an antidote for both of these reasons and have always been curious as to whether a certain region of the brain had any effect on the motivational aspects.

We would especially enjoy seeing studies that show whether walking while you work would stimulate the dorsal medial habenula explaining why many of users feel energized at the end of the day rather than exhausted. We confess that we also just like to say dorsal medial habenula, so more studies in this area would allow us to do that.

This is actually serious science however. Researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute recently discovered this area of the brain and its impact on an individual’s (mice) motivation to exercise and engage in other positive activities, possibly leading down-road to potential treatments for depression.

We would like to see immediate studies into the impact of walking on this area of the brain since it has already been established that walking is often a more effective prescription for depression than any of the normally prescribed anti-depressants in use today.

"Changes in physical activity and the inability to enjoy rewarding or pleasurable experiences are two hallmarks of major depression," lead researcher Dr. Eric Turner stated. "But the brain pathways responsible for exercise motivation have not been well understood. Now, we can seek ways to manipulate activity within this specific area of the brain without impacting the rest of the brain's activity."

His study compared mice with normal functioning signals from the dorsal medial habenula area of the brains with those with blocked signals. The mice with their signals blocked from this area of the brain lost their impulse to exercise and even their ability to enjoy sweetened drinking water. Lethargy and an inability to find joy in normally stimulative events are hallmarks of depression so blocking the DMH created some really sad mice it appears.

Now the question we hope scientists explore is the chicken/egg sequence of this question. Does the dorsal medial habenula decrease in size and signaling strength among individuals who are presently sedentary and at what dose of exercise can it be brought back to normal operating capacity?


These are exciting times in the study of the brain and we hope that the focus is not entirely on the development of drugs to overcome specific deficiencies but also include an exhaustive analysis of how the body heals itself with more natural therapies such as exercise.

Summary:  A new study of 9 & 10 year olds out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign clearly shows the positive impact of exercise on their young minds and sounds the alarm regarding the urgency of early intervention programs for at risk children.

New research conducted at Queen’s University has shown that exercise, as little as a 10 minute walk on a treadmill, had a positive impact on individuals suffering from anxiety disorders.

The study, conducted by Adam Heenan, a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology, measured the before and after effects of exercise (treadmill walking and/or yoga) utilizing point-light displays to determine levels of anxiety based on orientation perceptions. Normally anxiety disorder patients would see these point figures as threatening and facing towards them however exercise lessened these perceptions in study participants.

Many researchers believe that anxiety sufferers focus more on perceived threats and begin a progressive spiral that manifests itself in the disorder. This study was important in that it illustrated the positive impact of disrupting this perception merely by engaging in a 10 minute walk on a treadmill.

While the study does not indicate the biological reasons for the symptom dissipation it does coincide with a variety of studies that show improvement in mood and decreases in levels of depression brought about by a consistent program of walking.

TrekDesk Treadmill Desk’s previous reports have brought to light studies showing walking to be significantly more beneficial than any of the normally prescribed medications for depression and its curative abilities impacting the patient at a much faster rate as well. 

Walking with a treadmill desk during the work day is a simple and safe way to improve a general sense of well being. At a time when Americans are walking less than half of the minimum prescribed (5 miles per day) amount necessary for health maintenance it would be wise for physicians to evaluate inactivity as a primary risk factor for many mood disorders along with other major health risks.

 

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