Do you feel more calm the instant you step into nature? We certainly do! We love how the beautiful Florida weather enables us to be active in all of the outdoor sports we adore. Time spent in nature has amazing health benefits all on its own, plus science has found, when combined with hiking, the two can positively change your brain and even reduce depression!
We all know that sedentary lifestyles promote negative health outcomes. But studies also show that increased urbanization correlates with higher levels of mental illness, including depression. So, people who are sedentary and live in the city, have this unfortunate duo to contend with. Fortunately, we have hiking and nature to turn to as a remedy. Hiking has numerous benefits including boosting mental, emotional, physical and social well-being; enhancing the immune system; aiding in weight loss; and decreasing blood pressure, stress levels and depression.
How does combining hiking and nature help us? Many of us find ourselves lost in negative thoughts. We tend to ruminate or spend time rehashing the day’s events. Rumination involves repetitive, negative self- thought. But hiking in nature can stop that. In a study in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” researchers tested how a 90 minute walk in nature, and a walk on a loud, busy four lane street with traffic, affected ruminative thought. The urban walkers showed no changes. Those who went on the nature walk showed lower levels of self-reported rumination. In other words, they reported fewer obsessive, negative thoughts. They also demonstrated reduced activity in an area of the brain that relates to mental illness, showing improvement. Next time you take a walk, try hike through a nature preserve or along the beach. Enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds, along with all their health benefits.