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Research shows the way we walk affects our mood

Friday, October 17, 2014

KINGSTON, ON – Queen’s University professor Nikolaus Troje (Psychology, Biology and School of Computing) along with clinical psychologists from the University of Hildesheim, Germany, have shown that walking in a happy or sad style actually affects our mood.

“It is not surprising that our mood, the way we feel, affects how we walk, but we wanted to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” says Dr. Troje.

Dr. Troje presented the participants of the study with a list of positive and negative words, such as “pretty,” “afraid” and “anxious” and then asked them to walk on a treadmill while the researchers measured and analyzed gait and posture in real time. While walking, participants were looking at a gauge whose reading depended on the result of this analysis – namely if their gait appeared to be rather happy or rather sad as indicated by features such as slump-shouldered (sad) or vertical bouncing (happy). Participants didn’t know what the gauge was measuring. They were simply asked to make the gauge deflect from the neutral position. Some had to try to move the gauge left, while others were told to move it right.

Afterward, they had to write down as many words as they could remember from the earlier list of positive and negative words. Those who had been walking in a depressed style remembered many more negative words. The difference in recall suggests that the depressed walking style actually created a more depressed mood.

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