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Journey to Wholeness

Take a Walk

By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.




This can mean leaving abruptly or walking out. Sometimes people say it rudely when they want you to leave, or it can be walking for pleasure rather than for practical reasons. I am suggesting that taking a walk can be for pleasure or pragmatic reasons. Let me just say I have never been a runner, always a walker. We, my siblings and I, would walk to school and back home. We would walk to meet our dad at the bus stop coming home from work, and more recently, we, my spouse and I, walk to take care of our dogs. On vacations, we walk to see the trees, the mountains, the art, the flowers, and plants, or whatever interesting thing we can find. I do like walking.


I discovered the true therapeutic value of walking over 25 years ago when I was in a dark period of grieving over a lost relationship, and feelings of failure in every important area of my life. I accidentally ran into an old friend who happened to live in my new neighborhood. We took a walk in a local park. Finding it fun, we said, “Let’s do this again tomorrow.” For nearly a year we met in the early morning and walked around the park for about an hour. This, unknowingly, was a part of my feeling better, more hopeful, and more myself.


Exercise is one of the most powerful antidotes for depression. There is much research supporting that. Exercise changes brain chemistry in a positive way, helping us feel better. A recent article in the AARP Bulletin (May, 2023), “Think On Your Feet: To help improve your brain’s health, lace up your sneakers and hit the road,” gives us a few more good reasons to walk. Here is what the author, Martha Murphy, tells us:

  • Walking may help you grow new brain cells. Moderately paced walks stimulate the growth of new neurons and are the key to the survival of existing, brain neurons.

  • Walking may boost your creativity. Walking increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can open the gates to enhanced creativity. A Stanford University study found, “creative output increased 60 percent when participants were walking.”

  • Walking may enhance your mood. Walking increases blood flow to the brain and initiates “a cocktail of feel-good neurotransmitters-serotonin, dopamine, endorphins.” Walking in the sunlight, or even a cloudy day, helps our bodies manufacture Vitamin D, furthering the production of serotonin. Forty-two percent of American adults suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. Serotonin benefits memory and mood.

  • Walking may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. One study found that participants who walked more than 4,000 steps per day had healthier brain tissue in the areas responsible for memory, learning, and cognitive function. Aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, which typically begins to shrink in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and an increased risk of dementia.

  • Walking may decrease brain-damaging stress. Repeated exposure to stressful situations impairs memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Walking, particularly in nature, is effective at reducing stress levels. There are many studies documenting the healing properties of being in nature. Even looking at pictures of trees and plants, water, and animals, can help us feel better. Stress can elevate cortisol. Exercise and being outdoors reduce cortisol levels. A 20-minute walk has been shown to reduce stress.


I am also reminded of Stephen Ilardi’s book, The Depression Cure. He tells us of six things that can help us feel less depressed:

  • Getting enough sleep, about seven or more hours. Exercise helps us get better sleep.

  • Exercising regularly; twenty minutes five or more times a week.

  • Sunlight exposure or full spectrum light exposure.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EFAs)

  • Social contact and support

  • Deal with negative/ruminative thinking.


Walking outdoors with a friend directly impacts three of these factors, and indirectly impacts getting healthy sleep. You are left to take your EFAs and think or talk more positively as you walk. Just imagine! That daily walk helps you in so many ways with one activity. Set a goal for yourself. Make it as many times a week as you realistically can. Increase it to a minimum of five days. Maybe in good weeks, every day. So, please, take a walk!

Jude LaClaire, Ph. D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments, seminars, in-service training or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or;

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