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Walking Style Can Affect Mood

Oct 21, 2014 04:31 PM EDT
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Whether it's a bounce in your step or shoulders hunched forward, feet dragging along, your mood can affect your walk. But a new study shows it works the other way around, too. By changing your walk, you can also change your mood.
(Photo : connel_design / Fotolia)

Whether it's a bounce in your step or shoulders hunched forward, feet dragging along, your mood can affect your walk. But a new study shows it works the other way around, too. By changing your walk, you can also change your mood.

According to the results, participants who were asked to walk in a more depressed style, with less arm movement and their shoulders rolled forward, were more moody than those who were prompted to walk in a happier, bouncier style.

"It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we want to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel," co-author Nikolaus Troje said in a statement.

Described in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, study subjects were shown a list of positive and negative words, such as "pretty," "afraid" and "anxious," and then asked to walk on a treadmill. On the machine, they could see a gauge that moved left or right depending on whether participants were walking with a depressed or happier style. Researchers told some subjects to try and move the gauge left, while others were told to move it right, without knowing what the gauge was actually measuring.

"They would learn very quickly to walk the way we wanted them to walk," Troje says.

Afterward, the subjects were asked to recall as many of the positive and negative words they were previously shown as they could. It turns out, those who had been walking in a depressed style remembered many more negative words, suggesting that walking in a depressed manner actually caused someone to be in a more depressed mood.

"If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle, you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients," Troje noted.

So the next time you're trudging along, just put an extra hop in your step and you're bound to feel instantly better.

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