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Here’s How Hiking Changes Your Brain, According to Physicians

The Odyssey Online

Doctors say that hiking in nature can stop negative, obsessive thoughts, and even boost brain power.

“Get outside and get some fresh air” said every mother ever who knew that everyone needs to get away and unwind- even if it’s just down to the end of the street and back.

Now researchers are saying that hiking and simple walks in nature can reduce rumination, or deeply held thoughts that are hard for the average person to ‘let go’ of. One study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that, “Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.”

While that may be a mouthful for many that just want to understand why a good honest hike can be the starting point to a healthy lifestyle, one needs to understand the nuances of walking in the outdoors and why we need to do it more often.

Stay Healthy LA
Stay Healthy LA

Research conducted by Drs. Frances E. Kup and Andrea Faber Taylor even found that children suffering from ADHD had their symptoms greatly lessoned when exposed to outdoor activities.

People generally know as a rule that exercise reduces stress, but researchers in Alberta, Canada have found a link between the exercise and the decrease of memory loss in women over the age of 70, and that same exercise can even prevent it.

Unplugging can make your brain work less and explore more. Simple walks in nature cause us to focus more on projecting outwards as opposed to deep thought. Scientists found decreased blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex in active hikers. In English that basically means that this region of the brain is associated with bad moods: everything from sadness, to worry, to depression seem to be tied to this region of the brain, and hiking seems to deactivate it.

Instagram/Colleen Goldy
Instagram/Colleen Goldy

Basically speaking is there ever a reason not to go outdoors and get some fresh air? Do we really need someone to tell us that it’s good for us and that it’s healthy? The point is that sometimes starting a newer, healthier lifestyle can be daunting at times and not everyone is ready or even as capable as others.

Start with opening a window and looking outside. Soon enough will come the urge to join in the great outdoors- it’s where we came from and it’s where we are going. Doctors and researchers have spent enough time looking at it from a clinical point of view, now get out there and prove them right!



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Here’s How Hiking Changes Your Brain, According to Physicians