Walking New Zealand

Need2Know: Indoor pathways improve people’s mental wellbeing

- By Olivia Murray

We are increasing­ly coming to understand that mental wellbeing is strongly shaped by social and physical environmen­ts, says a recent report from NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi around the relationsh­ip between transport and mental health.

Our changing transport environmen­t brings with it different challenges for our mental health and wellbeing.

Positive transport systems for mental health include:

* Reducing long commutes

* Increasing active commuting and

* Walkable environmen­ts.

Not everyone can get active in our everyday commute, but most people can get outside in between work hours to change our environmen­t.

Physical activity releases endorphins into our blood stream, whether that’s walking, cycling, mountain biking, horse riding or dog walking. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller­s. They are our ‘feel good’ emotion after being active.

Physical activity also improves muscle and heart function, increases blood flow to the brain and increases the efficiency of brain chemicals. Not to mention, it can help us to get a good night’s sleep.

Physical activity also has a variety of psychologi­cal benefits. It can:

* Promote a sense of positive achievemen­t

* Improve self-esteem

* Give you a sense of control over your life

* Help with weight control

* Provide opportunit­ies for socialisin­g and making new friends.

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