We often associate summer with relaxing and getting away from it all. Unfortunately, the stress of being busy doesn't stop just because the mercury is climbing. The combination of work and family responsibilities can leave you feeling frazzled. It's important to find ways to slow down and press the reset button on your mounting stress.

You may be aware that exercise can help relieve stress and tension. What you may not realize is that even a gentle summer stroll - where you don't break a sweat - can help you unwind and feel more at ease. When the stress is building, one of the simplest and most effective coping strategies is simply to walk it off.

Why Walking Works
How can something as simple as walking help tame your stress? There are a number of reasons. Walking and other forms of exercise have been shown to improve mood. This is because physical movement stimulates chemicals in your brain - called endorphins - that can lead to a general feeling of well-being and relaxation.

In addition, walking can give you an energy boost, which might be just what you need to help power you through the stress and challenges of your day. Exercise helps your heart and lungs function more efficiently, and aids in circulating oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. This greater efficiency--as well as the improved endurance and muscular strength that you receive from walking--can help you feel better physically and mentally.

But that's not all - going for a walk can be fun if you make it an enjoyable activity to share with family and friends. Like all forms of physical exercise, walking can help you manage stress by giving you a way to take a break, get outdoors, and put distance between yourself and your worries. When you take the time to walk, you can return to face the challenges of your schedule feeling more refreshed.

When and Where to Walk
One of the best things about walking is that you can do it almost any time, anywhere--and with no equipment needed except for a comfortable pair of walking shoes. To ensure that you get your walk in, it can help to walk at a regularly scheduled time each day. Many people find it convenient to walk either before or after work, or on a lunch break. However, if you doing it during a lunch break, take care to walk in a shaded place and avoid too much of sun.

Don't worry if you can't find time to pre-plan a walk. If you feel your stress level rising, taking a short walk break can help restore your equilibrium. It is recommended to start slowly if you're not used to a regular exercise program, and gradually building up to a 30-minute stroll.

Not sure where to walk? There are no limits to the paths you might choose. You can pound the pavement around your neighborhood, or seek out local parks.

At work, try to find routes along sidewalks or designated paths--if you're near a shopping area, even a mall will work. If it's raining, a treadmill can do the trick if you have access to one near your home or office. And if all else fails, an extended stroll around the house or office can help blow off steam.

Walk the Talk to Better Health
Walking is proposed to be the most effective type of exercise for achieving better heart health. In fact, you can reap these benefits by walking as little as 30 minutes a day. And that's not all--research shows that for every hour you log moving forward in your walking shoes, you might increase your life expectancy by up to two hours. So don't just talk about feeling stressed out--get up and do something about it. The weather is perfect right now to take advantage of a summer stroll, and improve your physical and mental health too.