12 July 2016
Over 50% of people now live in urban areas and experts predict this will reach 70% by 2050. It’s no secret that urbanisation is associated with stress and scientists advise that visiting natural areas regularly is a vital factor for maintaining good mental health.
It sounds obvious that a good long hike in the mountains, or through countryside will clear your thoughts, reduces stress and improve fitness and mood - but recent scientific studies suggest that hiking can truly change your state of mind for the better.
Hiking reduces unnecessary reflexion and negative thoughts significantly. How many times have you caught yourself going over and over the same negative view or memory instead of enjoying the moment? Pilling up these thoughts without getting rid of them can lead to stress and depression, however, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published a recent study demonstrating that spending time in nature decreases negative, obsessive thoughts.
Scientists asked the participants to have a 90 minute walk either in an urban or natural environment. The first group reported no change in their thought patterns while those who walked in natural surroundings showed signs of reduced neural activity in the brain area relating to mental illness and lower levels of rumination. So taking a walk in nature contributes to our physical, mental and psychological well-being.
Fortunately, hiking is one of the easiest and affordable outdoor activities, so start small and then choose what you enjoy most. This could be a simple long walk in your home area, or further afield in the surrounding countryside, leading to a dedicated hiking or walking holiday with friends or family.
Slowly you will notice the positive changes walking in the great outdoors will bring to body and mind. Plan and prepare well for any trip and research your destination. Obtain appropriate insurance to cover you for any mishaps you may have. This needn’t be expensive, backpacker travel insurance will cover you for up to 18 months if you are on a budget. Stay healthy and enjoy hiking!
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