How the Brain Benefits From Hiking

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Many people already know and understand the many positive benefits the mind, body and soul can all gain from their hiking through the forest but recently there has been more good news released to them. a walk in the woodRecent scientific studies conducted have now shown us the positive effect hiking also has on the brain as well, being able to change it for the better!

Most of those who take the time to hike in nature can understand that special feeling of contentment and calm that they enjoy so much are now also learning how their efforts can in fact reduce rumination as well. So many of us understand and realize how we can be consumed by negative thoughts and how these can negatively effect us when they are happening and even worse, can lead to severe issues with anxiety and depression moving forward. The recent good news furnished in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recent survey points out their findings that one can significantly decrease any negative, obsessive thoughts by spending more time in nature.

One of the interesting components of this study had researchers compare the reported rumination of those participants hiking through a natural environment versus those hiking through an urban one. The good news for those walking in a natural environment for 90 minutes or more was lower levels of rumination and also in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a reduced neural activity. the subgenual prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain which relates to any mental illness symptoms. On the other hand, no decreased rumination was reported on those who conducted their walk through the urban environment.

It was also pointed out by the researchers just how increased urbanization correlates closely with different mental illnesses and increased instances of depression. These reports all show just how spending more time out in nature and getting ourselves away from the urban settings, can greatly benefit not just our psychological well-being, but our physical health as well.

Psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer conducted a study that showed how reconnecting with nature and disconnecting from technology can and will drastically improve creative problem solving. In this study, participants, for about 4 days, backpacked through nature and were forbidden to employ any technology at all. They were then asked to perform various tasks that required complex problem solving and creative thinking on their part. The net results researchers found for those taking part in this tech-free hiking excursion is that by 50% their performance on problem solving tasks improved!

In this study, the researchers noted and pointed out how both urban noise and technology can constantly demand our attention, be incredibly disruptive and certainly keep us from focusing properly and how these all can play havoc with our cognitive functions. On the other hand, taking a nice long hike with no technology interrupting can and will soothe the mind, reduce all mental fatigue and unquestionably boost one’s creative thinking.

A problem becoming more and more common in children is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD). The children that have it easily get distracted, have a difficult time with staying focused and with impulse control and also exhibit excessive hyperactivity.

While it certainly can be difficult for parents raising children that have ADHD, the typical solution which is to opt for prescription medicine, might actually not be the best choice to make, especially when there are natural solutions which will work just as well. In a study conducted by Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD and Frances E Kup, PhD, it was shown how exposing to “green outdoor activities” those children who have ADHD, their symptoms will reduce significantly! This study’s results point out the benefit of exposure to nature that are there for anyone that exhibits impulsive behavior, or anyone that has trouble paying attention.

We already understand how our overall well-being is enhanced by exercise. Between 400-700 calories will be burned hourly by our hiking. And depending on the hike difficulty and one’s size, hiking is far easier on the joints then say running might be. In addition, hiking is a great choice to become and stay active on a consistent basis as it has been proven how those who get started doing it will invariably continue to stick with doing it.

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered how hippocampal volume, which is the part of the brain associated with episodic and spatial memory, is increase in women 70 years of age and older, through aerobic exercising. Memory loss is not only improved by such exercise but in many instances prevented all together. In addition, it has been found to also release endorphins, boost self esteem and reduce anxiety and stress! This solution to these issues certainly beats the alternative of taking medications to deal with them.

The great news is that the entire family, including the grandparents, can and will benefit from hiking. You can get started on a small basis and do what works for you as you continue to go along with it. A walk in the park is a great place to begin and you should make every effort to keep your phone turned off unless there is some sort of emergency you are possibly going to need to deal with!

Layer your clothing to adjust to the weather, bring a bottle of water with you, wear a hat and make sure you have good shoes for hiking. Get started and you will soon realize the great benefits you will be enjoying!