Totally Runner: Improve Your Excercising Mood

Meet Denice Clark

Denice is a marriage and family therapist. She specializes in helping individuals toward their own behavior change goals (e.g., diet, exercise, weight-loss, chronic disease management, alcohol and/or substance misuse).

A part of Denice’s practice includes taking therapy outdoors for fresh air and a fresh perspective, it’s Walk & Talk Therapy.

In a recent conversation with her, I asked her about the significance of walking and talking. Here is what she had to say:

Back in the 1970’s a psychiatrist by the name of Thaddeus Kostrubala began a running program for weight loss and to reduce his cardiac risk. He eventually began incorporating slow running sessions with his clients for the mental emotional benefit. He also went on to write the books The Joy of Running, and Paleoanalysis & Running Therapy.

Kostrubala took groups of clients out to a track where they ran a slow, noncompetitive pace aimed at maintaining 75% maximum cardiac output, followed by group therapy sessions. In his books he outlined some of his research on the mental/emotional benefits of this type of running therapy; however, during these sessions running was still an adjunct to the therapy. Other researchers (Sime & Sanstead, 1987) believed that improvements in mood might be greater if exercise and therapy was conducted simultaneously.

A number of therapists since this time have begun to incorporate walking outside in a natural setting with their clients. Most of these therapists recognized the therapeutic benefit of exercise and being outdoors and believed it to be a natural fit with talk therapy.

The following additional benefits are also noted:

  • Walking side-by-side levels the playing field allowing for a more collaborative therapeutic relationship
  • Clients feel more “connected” being outdoors and puts things into perspective.
  • Clients get “unstuck” more quickly because of the casual environment
  • The physical motion of walking factors into moving forward in other areas of life.
  • Walking component helps them think more creatively about potential solutions

Exercise has long been believed to correlate with improvement in mood and improvements in depression/anxiety mood symptoms similar to taking medication. Nature exposure and outdoor therapy has also been well researched and correlations have been found between nature exposure and mental/emotional benefit.

The mental benefits of running and walking outdoors are just as strong as the physical. All the more reason to keep up the discipline!