Walking Cures Depression: New Research Defies Doctor's Orders

BY DI WESTAWAY | CEO and Founder of Wild Women On Top

Yes, I know this is a very polarising issue, but before you stab me with your trekking pole, read this: I’ve just had the privilege of walking in nature with the incredibly inspiring Australian Broadcaster and Sydney Coastrek Ambassador, Julie McCrossin.

After an agonisingly painful battle with life threatening throat cancer, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy, 20kg weight loss, no voice or salivary glands and a body which is literally eating itself in recovery, Julie has been given a 12 week reprieve.

Her doctor says she is cancer free for three months. OMG! Twelve short weeks till her next test … maybe it’s gone, maybe it’s back– a quarterly brush with death. Listen to her story here. Wow! How would you feel? Tortured, anxious, depressed.

The anxiety that cancer survivors live with is a known cause of depression. One battle over, another begins. Julie told me she now battles depression. But she believes the secret to managing this lies in walking with women in nature. Unfortunately, her doctor isn’t convinced. Every day, there’s more and more research published, showing the mind altering benefits of walking and the benefits of walking in nature. Even the medical fraternity are starting to consider the possibility that drugs are not the best solution.

This week, a new study has yet again recognised moderate exercise as an effective tool to treat depression.

PhD candidate George Mammen's review published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has taken the connection one step further, finding that moderate exercise can actually prevent episodes of depression in the long term.

This is the first longitudinal review to focus exclusively on the role that exercise plays in maintaining good mental health and preventing the onset of depression later in life.

Mammen analyzed over 26 years of research findings to discover that walking for 20-30 minutes a day can ward off depression in people of all age groups. Mammen's findings come at a time when mental health experts want to expand their approach beyond treating depression with costly prescription medication. "We need a prevention strategy now more than ever," he says. "Our health system is taxed. We need to shift focus and look for ways to fend off depression from the start."

Unfortunately there’s no commercial gain in prescribing walking as the best medicine. We need governments and socialpreneurs to get involved.

But, in the mean time how do YOU stay motivated to keep walking, every day, when life gets in the way … You commit to a Big Hairy Audacious fitness goal with your buddies, make a plan, and do it in delicious little daily morsels. YUM YUM.

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