Specialisation: Walking As A Physical Activity Intervention

Mental Health Physical Intervention: Walking

Abstract

Markedly, mental health encompasses the mental wellbeing that aids individuals in handling life exertions, identifying their capabilities, effectively learning, working, and contributing positively to their society. Similarly, mental health forms a fundamental element of health that fortifies decision-making capacity, good relationship development, and the world’s continuous modeling (Mortier et al., 2018). Because it is essential for personal, communal, and socio-economic progression, mental health is thus a fundamental human right. Notably, mental health conditions have been steadily rising over the last decade. In 2017, the World Health Organization reported a 13% increase in mental health conditions (World Health Organization, 2019). Approximately 20% of the global population of children and adolescents is linked with mental health complications. Among individuals aged 15-29, suicide is reported as the second cause of mortality. Equally, 20% of individuals in post-conflict zones have mental health challenges. If not well-managed, mental health can impart detrimental effects on an individual’s different life aspects, including education, performance in the workplace, relationships with other people, and the level of engagement in the community. The paper discusses walking as a physical activity intervention to support mental health.

Introduction

The global economy is approximated to invest US$ 1 trillion annually to address complications of the leading mental health conditions, anxiety, and depression (World Health Organization, 2019). The global community has implemented different intervention programs to address the negative impacts of mental health disruption. Strategically, walking is the least expensive and widely available form of physical activity intervention for mental health concerns. Walking is seldom linked with physical injury. Similarly, walking can be quickly adopted by individuals of all ages, including persons with zero physical activity experience. Noteworthy, mental health is more than the nonexistence of mental disorders. Mental health is multifaceted, encompassing varying degrees of gravity, distress, and distinct social and clinical consequences. Mental health complications comprise mental disorders and psychological debilities besides mental conditions related to enormous anguish, impairment in working, and threats of self-injury (Mortier et al., 2018). Therefore, individuals exhibiting mental conditions are most vulnerable to lower degrees of wellness. In 2019, 12.5% of the global population lived with mental disorders, anxiety, and depression (World Health Organization, 2019). In 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cases of individuals living with depression and anxiety significantly increased. In just a period of one year, the original approximate for anxiety and major depressive disorders revealed a 26% and 28% rise respectively. While effective interventions and management options exist, most individuals with mental health conditions cannot access them. Many individuals with mental health conditions encounter stigmatization, segregation, and defilement of human rights.

Making 58 million adolescents and children, 301 million individuals were living with anxiety in 2019 (World Health Organization, 2019). Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions attributed to excessive anguish, worry, and associated behavioral disruptions. Anxiety symptoms are severe and can cause immense pain or significant malfunctioning (Grassini, 2022). Different anxiety mental conditions exist, including generalized anxiety disorder attributed to excess worry, a panic disorder associated with episodes of panic attacks, social anxiety attributed to the combination of fear and worry in social contexts, and separation anxiety disorder attributed to worry and fright of losing people to whom the individual has a comprehensive emotional attachment (Grassini, 2022). Anxiety can be treated and managed through diverse interventions, including psychological and physical interventions based on the severity of the mental health condition and the individual’s age. Including 23 million children and adolescents, 280 million individuals lived with depression in 2019. Depression is distinct from typical mood swings and short-term emotional reactions to daily encounters. During depressive episodes, the individual encounter feelings of sadness and become irritable, displeased, and disinterested in activities for a minimum of two weeks.

Intervention

The endorsed physical intervention to support mental health throughout the paper is walking. Walking is the cheapest form of physical activity available in different forms. Walking has a higher adherence rate than other forms of physical activity because of its increased convenience (Grassini, 2022). Walking is presently the most popular type of physical activity worldwide. Physical activity principles are stipulated based on intensity, time, and repetitiveness. A standard guideline endorses that physical activity such as walking should be conducted for at least 30 minutes five days weekly. The 30 minute-walk can be accomplished in shorter sessions, not necessarily in one bout. Numerous psychological and behavioral change theories inform the walking intervention, such as the Theory of Planned Behavior, social cognitive, and self-efficacy theories. According to the Theory of Planned Behavior, when individuals have adequate knowledge regarding the significance of executing a behavior, trust that their social context will embrace the behavior and that they can sufficiently perform the behavior, they will create an intention to undertake the behavior (Kelly et al., 2017). Nonetheless, because intentions are often inadequate to generate sustained resolutions, theorists have elucidated that success relies on the fundamental extra steps of goal setting and striving, planning, and execution of the plans that culminate into accomplishing and preserving the goals from interferences (Kelly et al., 2017). Dynamics that back the goal-setting process encompass adequate knowledge of the mental health value of the target behavior, creating positive emotions, overpowering defensiveness regarding former disappointments, a goal conforming to personal values, diminishing competition with other primacies, and stimulating inherent inspiration. Selecting approach goals, creating specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals, and establishing mastery goals can greatly support successful goal striving (Kelly et al., 2017). The social cognitive and self-efficacy theories conceptualize the perception of persons or the self-assurance regarding the capacity of individuals, including the results expectancies and the personal beliefs on the possible results of adopting a given behavior. For walking, successful goal endeavoring is determined by the behavioral mechanisms from the social cognitive theory, including environment structuring to aid the goal, self-evaluation of progress, soliciting aid, and incentives.

Analysis of Intervention

Research findings suggest that walking can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, causing improvements in personal life quality and diminishing medical expenses related to the treatment and management of mental health conditions. According to Kelly and colleagues, consistent short walks show a significant decrease in depressive symptoms compared to a single long walk weekly (Kelly et al., 2017). Similarly, research has shown that walking supports cognitive performance, such as thinking, comprehending, and recalling. Grassini argues that the combination of regular walks with swimming sessions and social activities significantly enhanced the overall mood of the participant (Grassini, 2022). The study further claims that the beneficial impacts on mood persist six weeks after the walking intervention.

Markedly, leisure physical activity has been shown to alleviate the physical symptoms related to minor stress and anxiety. Equivalently, in short walks where active older adults and middle-aged individuals set their pace, the levels of self-reported energy increased. The mental health benefits of a brisk walk rely on the social setting and elements of the outdoor environment such as water and greenery (Kelly et al., 2017). For persons with type 2 diabetes, brisk walking elevated the affective response causing raised mental wellbeing. Therefore, compared to toning and stretching, walking can improve the mental health of adults between ages 60 and 75. Equally, Grassini argued that the self-esteem of participants of green walks increased significantly and persisted six weeks post-intervention (Grassini, 2022). Using a personal project scale, Grassini evaluated the perceptions of participants regarding their life tasks. The study demonstrated the perception of higher enjoyment, effectiveness and reduced stress.

Strategically, the findings of the intervention can be employed by occupational therapists to guide therapeutic interventions for persons living with or vulnerable to mental health conditions targeted at the improvement of mental wellness through meaningful doing. Equivalently, when undertaking activity assessment, occupational therapists can apply the evidenced-based walking intervention to guide their clinical comprehension (Kelly et al., 2017). Activity evaluation, group work facilitation, environmental assessment, and adaptation are the central elements that place occupational therapists at a fundamental rank in designing walking groups, and individualized walks for persons with mental health conditions to trigger meaningful engagement and enhance mental wellbeing (World Health Organization, 2019). Besides leisure walks and walking for wellness, green walks can be integrated into the walking program to increase the attachment with the natural environment and create a sense of belonging and freedom from daily life challenges and environment. Similarly, walking guided by pedometers can stimulate more fruitful results. Most of the studies employed small sample population, inappropriate experimental controls, and restricted group randomization. Thus, future studies should focus on larger experimental units and randomized controls.

Conclusion

Deductively, mental health is a central element of the wellbeing of human beings since it helps them to better manage their life strives, recognize their potentials and contribute effectively to the community. The World Health Organization reported a 13% rise in mental health conditions in 2017. Currently, 20% of the world population of children and adolescents are associated with mental health conditions (World Health Organization, 2019). Similarly, the most common cause of mortality for individuals aged between 15 and 29 is suicide. Therefore, it is evident that neglected mental health conditions can result in deleterious effects on various life aspects such as education, work performance and interactions with other individuals. The global economy is estimated to use $1 trillion annually to tackle the common mental health conditions; depression and anxiety. It should be noted that mental health encompasses more than just the absence of mental disorders. Anxiety is a mental health condition linked with excessive fear and worry and related behavioral impairment. Anxiety can be classified based on the portrayed symptoms such as fear, worry based on the contexts (Mortier et al., 2018). Conversely, depression comprises the deep feelings of sadness characterized by disinterest in normal life engagements for a minimum period of two weeks. The rising cases of mental health conditions necessitate an intervention that adequately addresses the challenge without necessarily inconveniencing the target individuals with regard to cost, time and required expertise. Walking is the recommended physical activity intervention to aid mental wellbeing in the paper. Walking is the least expensive type of physical activity that can be easily accessed without expertise in physical education, requires less time and is cost-effective. Because of its convenience, walking has a higher adherence rate (Kelly et al., 2017). A standard guideline endorses at least a 30 minute-walk on five days weekly. For beginners, the 30 minutes can be subdivided into relatively shorter sessions separated by brief breaks. The Theory of Planned Behavior, the social cognitive theory and the self-efficacy theory are fundamental in informing the walking intervention for mental health. Walking is effective in lessening the symptoms of depression, anxiety and boost moods and self-esteem in individuals.

References

Grassini, S. (2022). A systematic review and meta-analysis of nature walk as an intervention for anxiety and depression. Journal of Clinical Medicine11(6), 1731. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1551392

Kelly, P., Murphy, M., & Mutrie, N. (2017). The health benefits of walking. In Walking. Emerald Publishing Limited. Retrieved from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/S2044-994120170000009004

Mortier, P., Auerbach, R. P., Alonso, J., Axinn, W. G., Cuijpers, P., Ebert, D. D., … & Bruffaerts, R. (2018). Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among college students and same-aged peers: results from the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology53, 279-288. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-018-1481-6

World Health Organization. (2019). About mental disorders (No. WHO-EM/MNH/212/E). World Health Organization. Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/364126/WHOEMMNH212E-eng.pdf?sequence=1