Doctors Explain How Hiking Changes Our Brains

Hiking has great effects on our brains, according to scientists.

Spending time outdoors significantly reduces negative thoughts.

We live and work in stressful environments, and in the long term, this can lead to anxiety and depression. But according to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, spending time outdoor decreases negative thoughts significantly.

Researchers compared the rumination reported by participants who hiked through either an urban or a natural environment. The results showed that people who walked for 90 minutes or more reported lower levels of rumination. Also, they had lower neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with mental illness. For those who walked through the urban environment, however, the level of rumination was high.

The scientists noted that increased urbanization closely correlates with increased instances of depression and other mental illnesses. This means that regularly escaping from urban settings to spend time in nature could bring great benefits to our mental and physical well-being.

Hiking while disconnected from technology boosts creative problem solving, another study shows.

Psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem solving can be significantly improved by both disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. the participants in this study went hiking through nature for about four days while being forbidden to use any technology whatsoever. They were then asked to perform tasks requiring creative thinking and complex problem-solving. Researchers found that their performance on problem-solving tasks improved by 50%. The psychologists noted that both technology and urban noise are very disruptive, as they constantly demand our attention and prevent us from focusing, affecting our cognitive functions. A long, quiet hike with no technology can significantly reduce mental fatigue, soothe the mind and boost creative thinking.

Hiking outdoors helps children with ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is very common among children. Kids with ADHD have a hard time focusing, they are easily distracted and show excessive hyperactivity. Raising a child with ADHD is difficult for parents, who often turn to medication, which isn't always the best solution. Hiking outdoors could be a natural solution, according to a study conducted by Frances E Kup, Ph.D., and Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D. The researchers found that exposing children with ADHD to "green outdoor activities" reduces symptoms significantly. The results suggest that anyone who has a hard time focusing or exhibits impulsive behavior can benefit from spending time in nature.

Hiking in nature is a great exercise, boosting brainpower.

Hiking in nature is a great exercise, boosting brainpower.

Exercising is good for your body and overall well-being. Hiking can burn from 400 to 700 calories per hour, and it is easier on joints compared to running or working out at the gym. Besides, it's a lot more interesting and fun. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume - the part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory - in women over the age of 70. Such exercise not only reduces memory loss but helps prevent it, too. Researchers also found that it can lower stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and release endorphins. Many people turn to medication to solve these issues, but a regular hike could be a simpler solution to all of them.

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