Can Hiking Really Change Your Brain?

Can Hiking Really Change Your Brain?

No more excuses. There is now a medically necessary reason for you to hit the trails. Hiking has become a prescription. Doctors have discovered that getting back to nature can scientifically reduce depression, anxiety and even reduce the symptoms of ADHD.  We already know the physical benefits of hiking now we’re beginning to understand the mental benefits as well.

Over 50% of people now live in urban areas and experts predict this will reach 70% by 2050. The average American child now spends half as much time outside as compared to only 20 years ago. Only 6% of children will play outside on their own in a typical week. Sadly, kids are now spending almost 8 hiking healthhours per day watching television, playing video games, or using a computer, tablet, or phone for fun. Overall, Americans now spend 93% of their time inside a building or vehicle. So the numbers……Pretty depressing.

Now the research……

A study by published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Gregory Bratman Stanford University, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a city or urban area, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression. In another study, also led by Bratman, 50 minutes in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory.

Another study conducted by psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that creative problem solving can be drastically improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. Participants in this study went backpacking for about 4 days, during which time they were not allowed to use any technology whatsoever. They were asked to perform tasks which required creative thinking and complex problem-solving. Researchers found that performance on a creative problem-solving task improved by 50% for those who took part in this tech-free hiking excursion.

hiking health

One more boon for hiking is it’s believed to help with symptoms of ADHD. Two studies to date have examined the impacts of exposure to nature among individuals with ADHD. Both focused on children aged 7 to 12 years who had been professionally diagnosed with ADHD. In the first study, 96 parents rated their children on a variety of activities. They then rated their children after a “green” activity. The children’s ratings were higher after activities taking place in green outdoor settings than those of activities taking place either indoors or on a playground setting, and the greener a child’s typical play settings, the less severe his or her general symptoms.

Now if you’re wondering if all these studies, percentages and science really has a practical application, check out this article by The Web Shrink. This is the testimony of a Licensed Professional Counselor out of Philadelphia and how a weekend trip to a state park recharged his batteries.

Let face it we’re busy. I know I am. Three teens going in three different directions all at once. Then there’s bills, dinner, a chorus performance, church activities the list could go on forever. At what point do you say stop, enough’s enough’s? If you’re like me your daily routine begins to drag you down mentally and physically. Stressed doesn’t even come close to the emotions that come up. That’s not the mom I want to be. There can’t be any more excuses, the health benefits of hiking are not just physical but now mental. Now is the time to find that hike……

Is Your Health Worth a Hike?



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