Walking for mental health

Outdoor pathways improve people’s mental wellbeing

“We are increasingly coming to understand that mental wellbeing is strongly shaped by social and physical environments” says a recent report from 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. 

ThWalking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa supports access to the outdoors, not just for outdoor recreation but because it is good for everyone's mental health and wellbeing. People need a close connection to nature and spaces to walk and ride. 

This research from Waka Kotahi shows that being stuck in traffic makes people feel worse. But walking through a trail makes them feel better. The commission's role is to promote access to the outdoors so people can spend more time in places that are better for our physical and mental wellbeing. Designed and located tracks and trails can be great for recreation as well as for transport and commuting. 

If you are looking for more places to visit outdoors; have a look on Find My Adventure  for a hīkoi near you. 

Page last updated: May 17, 2021, 11:05 AM