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Inside CSULB
Vol 58 No. 4 : April 2006
Vol 58 No. 4 : April 2006
Walk Your Way to More Energy

Walk Your Way to More Energy illustration

A recent study by CSULB Professor Robert Thayer shows that the more people walk each day, the more energetic they feel and the better their mood.

“People seem to be interested in walking as a health benefit, but here, we’re seeing it is not just cardiovascular health and other kinds of physical health that are important, but psychological health as well,” explained Thayer, a professor of psychology. “The more a person walks has a very real and immediate psychological effect that an individual can experience every day.”

Thayer and a group of student researchers assessed 37 individuals (12 males and 25 females) over a 20-day period, during which time each participant wore a pedometer from their waist from the time they dressed in the morning until just before bed.

At the end of each day, participants completed several rating scales based on their judgments of the entire day, including self-ratings of self-esteem, happiness, overall mood and depression as well as energy and tension. After making the self-ratings, they noted the number of steps taken that day according to their pedometers.

“We found that there was a clear and strong relationship between the number of steps they took and their overall mood and energy level,” said Thayer, author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise. “It really indicates that we’re talking about a wider phenomenon here than just walk more and feel more energy. We’re talking about walk more, be happier, have higher self-esteem, be more into your diet and the nutritiousness of your diet.”

The study was one of four Thayer and student researchers have done over the last several years.

“In this whole series of studies that we’ve done, the more you walk in a day, the more energy you experience,” Thayer noted. “That’s a little counter-intuitive because you would think that when you expend energy, you would not feel as energetic afterwards.” The purpose of this particular study was to determine if there is a wider set of correlations between the amount of walking each day and related mood states. In addition, the researchers sought to identify any relationship between daily walking and nutritiousness of diet as well as perceived health because this could indicate, according to Thayer, that people eat better and experience better health when they walk more.

“The amount of walking each day predicted a wide variety of positive psychological conditions,” Thayer said. “Specifically the correlations between the number of steps and self-ratings indicated that when our participants walked more, they rated their diet as more nutritious. They also rated more highly their health, energy, overall mood, happiness and self-esteem, in that order.”

Thayer pointed out that walking more is increasingly advocated by public health authorities as an excellent form of essential exercise, and recently in the popular media, there was the widely advocated suggestion that people should walk 10,000 steps a day for optimal health. But there is little scientific evidence supporting this recommendation, and the “average” number of daily steps for Americans is unclear.

The data collected from this study, however, does provide some evidence of health as well as typical walking patterns of individuals. Over the 20-day period of the study, the mean number of steps per day of the 37 participants was 9,217, with the males averaging 9,829 steps per day and the females averaging 8,923. The 18-25 age group averaged the highest number of steps per day with 10,085 while the 36-45 age group averaged the lowest number of steps per day with 8,482. Thayer did note, however, that compared with other walking estimates he has seen, it appears that participants in the study walked more than average.

According to Thayer, however, there is something that prevents individuals from taking advantage of this “walk and feel-better” phenomenon, and it is a fact he mentioned in his last book Calm Energy.

“We’re really experiencing an epidemic of stress and depression during these current times. A huge portion of the population is experiencing these effects for a variety of reasons, and the more depressed they are, the less they want to exercise,” Thayer pointed out. It is important to get the word out and make people realize that if they get up and walk or exercise, they will feel better.”

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Professor Robert Thayer

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