We all know walking is good for us, and according to recent statistics – it’s New Zealand’s favourite sport (even beating rugby.)
But new research has revealed that hiking – actually being in nature while walking – exaggerates health benefits and has a pretty incredible effect on our minds.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 90 minute walk through nature has a beneficial effect on our brains.
Studying a group of people who were sent hiking through nature, and comparing them with those who walked through the city for the same time, researchers found those in nature had lower levels of anxiety and bad moods.
There was actually a decrease in blood flow to the part of the brain associated with bad moods – the subgenual prefrontal cortex – in those that had been hiking in a natural environment.
Similarly, psychologists found in a 2012 study that a four day hike in the wilderness with no technology actually made the participants more creative.
This is thought to be because our constant stimulus from the modern world is stifling our ability to think creatively. For more on this see Is being bored good for your health?
And finally, in a 2010 report in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, it was shown that getting out into nature even for a brief period is enough to boost your self-esteem, while a day spent outdoors is even better for you.
In New Zealand we have some of the most beautiful hikes in the world, so what better excuse do you need than to seek out one near you today, and start reaping the rewards.