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The Health Benefits of Walking, Plus: 5 Favorite Local Hiking Trails

Walking is good for both mental and physical health! Here's where to take a hike.

Photo by James Maciarello

There’s a Latin proverb that says, “Solvitur ambulando,” meaning “The problem will walk itself out.”

Dr. Tad Kostrubala, who was head of psychiatry at San Diego’s Mercy Hospital back in the ‘70s, became famous for creating the stir about “running therapy” by taking depressed patients out for one-hour walk/run therapy sessions. He found in his research at SDSU’s Rehabilitation Counseling Department that his subjects enjoyed both psychological and physiological benefits from walking and running in therapy sessions. He understood that people are built for walking.

Believe it or not, many laughed at his approach in those days.

Today it seems that only those who earn their living providing meds for depression are denouncing “running/walking therapists.” 

Physically, walking reduces heart rate and resting blood pressure, lowers the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio while increasing the “good” HDL cholesterol, increases insulin receptor sensitivity and glucose tolerance. 

On the emotional side, walking clearly leads to changes in the same neurotransmitters that antidepressant medication targets for reducing depression and anxiety. Walking not only improves mood and feelings of well-being, but reduces stress and leaves walkers with a better self-image. 

One midwestern medical group, HealthPartners, is so convinced of these findings that their doctors prescribe pedometers to patients who appear with depression. Along with the pedometers, patients with depression are directed to walk for 30 minutes a day, three to five times a week. That’s not meant to replace necessary medication or cognitive behavioral therapy, but it’s a key driver in recognizing the value of walking away your problems.

Locally, we have some awesome walking/hiking trails for you to check out. Here are a few of my favorite mood-lifting paths:

1.   Batiquitos Lagoon Trail.  2 miles of trails in Carlsbad

2.   Iron Mountain. Get ready for a 7 mile hike up this mountain in Poway

3.    Mission Trails Regional Park. This is the king of them all with more than 40 miles of scenic historical trails, lakes, and mountains

4.    Torrey Pines State Reserve. If you love the ocean, this is for you.

5.    Mission Bay Park. 12 miles of paths for you to enjoy around the Bay

Someone once said, “a pedestrian is someone who thought there were a couple of gallons left in the tank.” Current research tells us pedestrians are those who plan on many more miles left in life, with happiness and well-being.

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About This Blog

Edit ModulePsychologist Michael Mantell tackles San Diego’s psychological well-being, from reducing stress and anxiety to creating closer bonds with family to the importance of physical fitness.

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