Do you remember when was the last time you went hiking? If you are neglecting this one of the healthy, simple and most affordable athletic activities, then you’re missing on some important brain benefits offered by hiking. Because science reveals that hiking can supercharge your brain.
Technological developments have pushed us on a fast track of material progress. Frustrating commutes to the workplace, speedy communication with social media apps, pleasure from the glamorous world of films and Netflix shows are keeping us far away from the leisurely pace of life. We rarely find time for meditation, yoga, and heavy workouts. Isn’t it?
However, unlike yoga and heavy workouts, hiking is one such exercise that offers you immense physical and brain benefits. Besides getting exercise, you can also enjoy eye-catching and soul-soothing scenery.
A good hike through a forest or up a mountain can cleanse your body, mind and soul. And now there is scientific evidence why your brain loves a hike. Read on to know how hiking can change your grey matter.
1. Hiking in nature can reduce rumination
Mental health experts consider rumination as a silent mental health problem. Ruminating is the process of brooding too much on negative events, which over time can lead to anxiety and depression. While work and family pressure can push you into a vicious cycle of negative obsessive thoughts, hiking can give you an instant feeling of calm and contentment.
Hiking reduces rumination according to a 2015 study. Researchers found that nature experiences can decrease repetitive thoughts focused on negative aspects of self by a significant margin.
In this study, the researchers compared the changes in the brain when healthy participants spend time in nature and in an urban setting. Those who had a 90-min walk in a natural setting showed a decrease in both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC – an area of the brain related to mental illness). Whereas a 90-min walk in an urban setting has no such effects on self-reported rumination or neural activity.
Hiking also reduces stress because trees and plants release anti-bacterial chemicals these phytoncides can have a significant effect on stress. Spending more time in green spaces lowers cortisol or stress hormone levels.
Urban noises and busy life disturbs our mind causing mental fatigue. But, a nice long hike with or without friends can soothe your mind and help you think straight.
So, what are you waiting for?
If you can’t travel to naturesque places, look for accessible natural areas within urban contexts. And that will greatly benefit your physical and psychological well-being.
2. Hiking can improve ADHD in children
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviours. Children with ADHD struggle to focus and control their impulse.
Although prescription medication seems to work, natural solutions were found to be far more effective in the long run. Several studies showed that exposure to the natural environment can benefit people who have a short attention span, exhibit hyperactivity, and have difficulty controlling impulses.
A study published in the American Journal of public health examined the impact of relatively natural settings on ADHD symptoms across diverse subpopulations of children. Children were engaged in several after-school and weekend activities, And parents nationwide were asked to rate the after-effects of these activities on children.
Aftereffects were compared for activities conducted in natural outdoor settings versus those conducted in both built outdoor and indoor settings. Results showed that green outdoor activities reduced symptoms significantly more than did activities conducted in other settings.
In conclusion, green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics. Hiking as amazing brain benefits, isn’t it?