Hiking Helpful for Health, Happiness

Most people can rattle off a long list of benefits that regular walks can provide. A recent study found that list gets even longer on walks through nature.

For example, hiking — as opposed to just walking down the street — can burn between 400 to 700 calories per hour. And because nature hikes can be more of an escape than neighborhood walks, many people find them more enjoyable and are more inclined to make it a regular routine.

In addition, nature hikes may improve cognitive acuity. The study, published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” discovered that people who took their walks in nature experienced significant improvements in their mental outlook. Participants were found to have reduced levels of neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with mental illness.

Apparently, spending time in a more natural environment reduced obsessive, negative thoughts compared to those who walked in urbanized areas. In fact, the study linked urban environments to increased levels of mental illnesses, such as depression.1

Hiking in the wild may also improve creativity. We live in such a technologically connected world, it’s hard to imaging problem solving without first consulting a Google search to see how others may have fared. However, another study found that disconnecting from technology and replacing it with experiences in a more natural environment improved creative thinking and complex problem solving by as much as 50 percent.2

So, the next time you feel blue or have a problem to solve, try turning off your cellphone and taking a hike.

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1Alanna Ketler. Collective Evolution. April 8, 2016. “Doctors Explain How Hiking Actually Changes Our Brains" Accessed Jan. 18, 2016.

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