Several Studies Show Why Hiking is Great for Your Brain

hiking

By Marilyn Rogers | Life Hack

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” wrote John Muir in Our National Parks. Clearly, John Muir understood the intrinsic value of spending time in nature.

Related Article: How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative


Along with Muir, many of us recognize that hiking in nature is good for the body, mind, and soul. Walking through the woods while observing colorful birds and foliage, smelling the aroma of spruce and pine trees, and listening to a soothing running stream simply clear our mind and make us feel good. Lucky for us, doctors agree. Study after study shows there are many mental health benefits to spending time hiking in nature.

Hiking in Nature Reduces Rumination

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Those who ruminate or focus too much on negative thoughts about themselves can exhibit anxiety, depression, and other issues, such as binge eating or post traumatic stress disorder. In a recent study, researchers investigated whether spending time in nature affects rumination, and they found that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts.

In this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through an urban environment and a nature environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment, which took place in a grassland near Stanford University, reported lower levels of rumination and also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with mental illness. Those who walked through an urban environment didn’t enjoy these benefits.

Related Article: The Frequency of Life: Getting Back to Nature For Good Health

These researchers indicate that our world is becoming more and more urban and that urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Visibly, simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health.


Hiking While Disconnecting from Technology Boosts Creative Problem Solving

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According to a study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving can be improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. They found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50 percent.

Researchers indicate that technology and the noise of urban areas constantly demand our attention and disturb us from focusing, which taxes our cognitive functions. Thus, when we’re feeling overwhelmed from the stressors of urban life and being plugged-in 24/7, nature hikes can be strong medicine. They reduce our mental fatigue, soothe our minds, and help us think creatively.

Hiking Outdoors Can Improve ADHD in Children

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder among children. Those with ADHD generally have trouble staying focused, are easily distracted, exhibit hyperactivity, and have difficulty controlling impulses.

Raising children with ADHD can be perplexing for parents. Nonetheless, great news has emerged from the medical and scientific world. In a studyconducted by Frances E. Kuo, PhD and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, researchers found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” reduced their ADHD symptoms. Thus, according to this study, the benefits of exposure to nature can extend to anyone with inattention and impulsivity.

Doctors conclude that simple changes that involve green activities or settings can improve attention. For example, increasing exposure to a window seat with a green view, participating in an afternoon nature hike, or simply playing ball in the park can ease unwanted ADHD symptoms.

Hiking in Nature is Great Exercise, Which Boosts Brainpower

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We’ve all heard the expression healthy body, healthy mind. Hiking outdoors is an excellent form of exercise and it can burn 400 to 700 calories an hour, depending on the difficulty of the hike. An added benefit is that hiking isn’t as hard on our joints as other forms of exercise, such as running. Also, it’s proven that those who exercise outside are more likely to stick to their exercise programs, which makes hiking an excellent choice for those hoping to integrate exercise into their daily lives.

Related Article: The Frequency of Life: Getting Back to Nature For Good Health

The mind and body are naturally connected. Exercise helps to keep our brain cells nourished and healthy. In fact, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia, aerobic exercise might improve memory and cognitive ability. In the study, they found that aerobic exercise increased the hippocampal volume in older women. The hippocampus is a part of brain associated with spatial and episodic memory.

Not only does exercise improve cognitive ability and possibly prevent cognitive decline as shown by the study, it can also reduce stress and anxiety, boost self esteem, and release endorphins (feel-good hormones). It’s astonishing that a physical activity as simple and low-cost as hiking can provide so many mental health benefits.

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  1. 10153792009253334@facebook.com' Catherine Byers says:

    Nicole Parsons

  2. 10205751347690690@facebook.com' Tim Peters says:

    Good for your body, mind and soul…

  3. 944121932304174@facebook.com' Eileen Enerva says:

    Jennifer Grove

  4. 1563063534011572@facebook.com' Daphne Boogaard Tpf says:

    Terry Sims Scott

  5. 667746336712170@facebook.com' Kristina Meldgaard Mygind says:

    Line Hagen Højfeldt Tommy Hagen Højfeldt ?

  6. 10204220734517647@facebook.com' Cory Borne says:

    Dario Relatic

  7. 1118116784888868@facebook.com' Hazel Grasya says:

    I wanna do this with close friends and sissy Ka Ren King

  8. 10209269024461983@facebook.com' Edwin Deboer says:

    Menno de Boer Arjan Remijn

  9. 1322871761071570@facebook.com' Pascual-Deshell Taberna says:

    Lindsey?

  10. 169170813419210@facebook.com' Marj Quewezance says:

    Shaine Laflamme Medvid

  11. 1086566738061102@facebook.com' Romelle Hanamichi Sakuragi Montilla says:

    Jayrus Josua Calma Bernardino, ALsie Salvador Alon-alon, Johndee Halili Bonde, Maricar Mae Adoviso, Timothy Aquino, Carlos Aaron Caldo, Jonas Bandin, Adrian Paul Latayan, Sheena M. Banagan hahaha

  12. 979499052089832@facebook.com' Angela Mumford says:

    All it did for me was make me feel bad tempered trudging along with a heavy pack, hard boots and getting scratched by seed heads… Endless tramping behind someone else’s heavy pack, all you see is the back of their legs and heels of their boots, and all you hear is someone continuously chatting about nothing and lots of heavy breathing….. No I prefer a leisurely ramble, stopping now and then to admire the scenery and take photos, or study the flora and fauna in a small patch… That is far better for the brain !

    • 561165150713075@facebook.com' J Solomon Martin says:

      Sounds like ya’ll had a bad trip. What you describe says: no pace set, an ill-fitting pack or improperly loaded one, no itinerary, a bad or no hike leader, and were walking less than 10 strides apart. Also sounds like maybe just an over nighter which is often a bit of a shock for unseasoned hikers. A 3-5 day trip will change the way your body moves and sits and the way your mind works. IT takes a bit for muscles to reorient and thought processes to open. The night after the first day, everyone’s sore or cranky. By day 3, it’s a pure way of living and on day 5, no one wants it to end. You’ve become nomadic and free. You’ll also notice your back and feet feel amazing….unlike day 1 😉

    • 979499052089832@facebook.com' Angela Mumford says:

      Sorry, not convinced !

  13. 10207432430386154@facebook.com' Tulsi Greenlee says:

    Gurushabd Khalsa ❤️

  14. 10153263118377303@facebook.com' Kristy Madden Fitzsimmons says:

    once a month Tara?? needs to be more frequently… and the child is able now!!… oh yes she is!

  15. 1696798313929224@facebook.com' Dennis Korec says:

    Hiking and meditation are my favorite things to do. All part of travel. Traveling to a destination for recreation is also awesome.

  16. 466703540192243@facebook.com' วิสันต์ วิริยะนันทะสิริ says:
  17. 1036970996345691@facebook.com' Silvia Romo says:

    Since you’ve mentioned to go hiking. Here are some reasons why we should keep doing it. Edna Castellon , Ruth Karina Lozano Morgan Meza Alondra Steel

  18. 1042603832462463@facebook.com' Evadney Smith says:

    Yamileth this is for you.

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