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Human Health

How does hiking promote brain activity?

How does hiking promote brain activity

Brain games such as crosswords, are not the only way to stimulate your brain activity. Research has suggested that hiking can promote your brain activity to include; boosting memory, having a positive effect on your mental health, and increasing your creativity.1.

Here we have listed some of the core facts to motivate you to put on your hiking boots.

The use of a compass promotes brain activity

The use of a compass promotes brain activity

If you lose your bearings while you are hiking, it can actually be quite beneficial to the brain, this is mainly because the brain has to utilize new survival skills that it may not have used before. These news skills could be, map reading, or using a compass, to pinpoint and find the correct path you need to go, in order to reach your destination.

Hiking is one of the most common activities that may lead to you getting lost, thus, your brain is getting a good workout along with the rest of your body, as you are having to use your brain to orienteer yourself to navigate your route. This is because your brain is building new neuron pathways, through learning new skills, associated with navigating yourself through personally undiscovered places.

Natural Chemicals released by the trees help to combat stress

Natural Chemical released by the trees help to combat stress

Spending time in woodland can benefit your brain, this is because of the antibacterial chemicals called phytoncides, which are released by the trees and also the plants. Research has suggested that these phytoncides can reduce stress, as cortisol levels have been found to reduce within people who spend time in nature. Also, woodland has been suggested to boost your immune system, and energy levels. Which leads to the ancient Japenese practice of Shinrin Yoku, a natural therapy of forest bathing, which has been very popular in Japan for many years.2.

Exploring helps to establish new neurons

Exploring helps to establish new neurons

Some evidence has been found that hiking helps to establish new neurons which have been formed. This establishment of the new neurons leads to them to be consolidated into functional circuits within the brain. So it can be very beneficial to mix it up a little and take new hiking routes now and again, thus helping to establish any new neurons.3.

Hiking can help generate creativity

Hiking can help generate creativity

Hiking has been suggested to help with creativity, so if you are looking to do a little brainstorming, maybe it would be beneficial to go for a hike. Hiking along with many other types of exercise induces neurogenesis, neurogenesis is the birth of new brain cells within the hippocampus, the hippocampus is responsible for learning and memory retention. Thus, hiking is a brilliant activity for neurogenesis, enabling your brain to increase its natural potential.4.

Your brain system rewards outdoor activities

Your brain system rewards outdoor activities

If you do not spend much time in the great outdoors, and instead live in a built-up area, spending time now and again in the countryside can have a huge benefit on your neural networks. Also, new spaces outside, or inside can have a beneficial effect on your brain’s Nero networks. This is because as humans, we are natural explorers, and are primed to want to explore. If we follow our natural basic instincts, that have evolved with us, deep within our brain circuitry, our brains will reward us.5.

The great outdoors helps to reduce depression

The great outdoors helps to reduce depression

Research suggests that spending time in the great outdoors can reduce depression, and will help to stop depression forming. Thus, hiking for a couple of hours can help you to be mentally fit, and also combat mental health issues that you may currently be harboring. Stanford University has also suggested via a study, that spending time in the great outdoors may reduce rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation, which is associated with mental illness.6.

Your memory retention may improve

Your memory retention may improve

Research has suggested that exercise such as hiking can improve memory, via the hippocampus growing larger. This research was performed at the University of British Columbia. The study consisted of a group of subjects walking briskly for an hour, twice a week. Results suggested that the subjects’ hippocampus grew bigger once measurements were taken after the study was completed, compared to the measurements taken before the study started.7.

Exercise in picturesque places induces alpha waves

Exercise in picturesque places induces alpha waves

Alpha waves can be induced via exercising in picturesque places, alpha waves can be summarised as the brain waves that flow electricity across your brain. Alpha waves can help you think in a calm and sometimes creative way, it has also been suggested that if you have quite high alpha waves, they can help to reduce and help stop depression from forming.8.

Hiking will help promote natural endorphins

Hiking will help promote natural endorphins

Neurochemicals are generated via the body undergoing exercises, and you will be happy to hear hiking is one of them. The endorphins associated with exercise can help the body to decrease sensitivity to pain and stress, and sometimes may make us feel euphoric.9.

Hiking can reduce age-related brain problems

Hiking can reduce age-related brain problems

Hiking is great for short term health promotion, but it has also been suggested that hiking is great for longterm overall plasticity of the brain. It is especially beneficial to the older generation, thus hiking can help reduce age-related brain problems.10.

Conclusion

So we can conclude that hiking is a great exercise for the brain, it has been suggested that it is great for; releasing neurochemicals, neurogenesis, establishing new neurons, generating creativity, reducing depression and other associated mental health problems, improving memory, inducing alpha waves, and it will help promote natural endorphins.

Products that may be of interest

Epic Hikes of the World

Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World is a brilliant book that features 50 incredible hiking routes in 30 countries, including; Peru, and New Zealand.

References

1, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323
2, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/039463200902200410
3, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S155041311300377X
4, https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf
5, https://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract
6, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/
7, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110
8, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4338399/
9, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6091217
10, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20890449

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