Hiking Changes Your Brain for the Better
Escaping into nature for a hike doesn't just feel good physically. Scientists have found that it also positively affects our brains.
Image Credit: William Patino
In a recent research study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, a 90-minute nature walk was seen to have huge positive impact on the moods of the participants of the study in comparison to those who went for a 90-minute walk through a bustling city. The participants from the hike showed far lower levels of brooding and obsessive worry, whereas those who walked the city route showed no decrease or difference in their attitudes. Furthermore, through brain scans of the subjects, scientists even noticed decreased blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex for the hikers. A higher blood flow in this area is usually caused by depression, worrying and sadness.
In addition to better moods, disconnecting from the world of technology actually makes you more creative too. Another study from 2012 by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer documented the results of participants on a test known as RAT, or Remote Associates Test. This test is a simple way to measure the creative potential in a person. Test results of those who went for a four-day hike with no access to technology was a substantial 50% higher than those who didn't.
Finally, a study by the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found that hiking boosts self-esteem and can change the way you feel about yourself. To get the most out of your hike, aim for a track with rivers or lakes because walking near water results in the biggest improvements.
While hiking may not be the answer to all of life's problems, it may help improve your quality of life, keeping your mind healthier and your body stronger. Sometimes a return to nature can do a world of good.