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Mental & Emotional Health

Happy Walking Could Help with Depression

Want to improve your mood? It can help to walk as if you’re happy, according to new research.

A study from Canadian researchers showed that people who were prompted to walk in a slump-shouldered style experienced worse moods than those who were prompted to walk in a happier, bouncing style.

Nikolaus Troje, of Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, a co-author on the paper, has shown in past research that depressed people move very differently than happy people.

“It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we want[ed] to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” Troje said.

Troie and colleagues from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research had subjects read a list of positive and negative words, and then asked them to walk on a treadmill. The walking styles and postures were measured via a gauge that prompted participants to walk either in a depressed style or a happy style. Afterward, the subjects had to write down as many words as they could remember from the list they’d been shown. People who had been prompted to walk in a depressed style recalled more negative words, indicating that the depressed walking style led to a more depressed mood. But people who had been prompted to walk in a happy style remembered more positive words.

Researchers said that the study amplifies our understanding of how mood affects memory. Clinically depressed patients remember more negative than positive life events. “If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle,” Troje said, “you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients.”

The study was published in Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

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