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Walking with friends is good for your heart and head

by beyondblue

Good mental health and good overall health go hand-in-hand. There are many things people can do to protect or improve their mental health and reduce the risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Changing or maintaining your lifestyle to include regular physical activity, healthy eating, good sleep and cutting down on alcohol are all good steps. Spending time with friends and family is another. 

We know that people who have strong social support networks – people they like, enjoy spending time with and feel supported by – tend to manage stress and maintain their mental wellbeing more effectively than people who are more socially disconnected and feel alone.

Group activities, such as walking, potentially offer the best of both worlds: a good dose of regular exercise and time to have fun and build friendships with others. The relationships built during these meet-ups allow walkers the opportunity to seek advice and support when they’re facing challenges or tough times. As the saying goes: a problem shared is a problem halved. 

For people who are living with anxiety or depression, the hurdle of getting started and staying motivated can be hard to overcome. If you’re a friend or carer of someone who would like to start walking for their mental health, there are a few ways to support them:
•    Provide a structure for your walking: meet at a regular time and place.
•    Encourage your friend to gradually build towards their goal.
•    Create positive experiences (is there a favourite place you like to walk together?) and celebrate success.
•    Don’t treat it as a problem solving or therapy session, but just use the walk to listen.
•    If your friend needs additional support, talk to a professional about your concerns and direct your friend to sources of help (e.g. beyondblue or a GP). 

beyondblue provides tips to help people get started with activities - check out their downloadable activity action plan