Hiking Changes Our Brains!

Mt. Rainier NP

King of the mountain?

Recently I read an interesting online article that cited several studies showing ways in which hiking changes our brains for the better. If you’re already a hiker, you might have noticed that you feel more relaxed, calm, and focused after going for a hike. You might have figured out the solution to a problem you were having without even really thinking about it. You might have realized you’re more willing to exercise if you get to go for a hike instead of go to the gym. All of these results were a result of your brain functioning in ideal conditions.

Portland snow

Hiking at Mt. Tabor park in the snow

The article says that hiking stops some of the negative spinning we sometimes devolve into in our heads (I guess I’m not the only one who does this!). Apparently, “spending time in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts by a significant margin.” Interestingly, people who walked in urban areas did not see the same decrease, only those out in natural areas. And that problem-solving thing? Turns out too much technology sometimes gets in the way of our brains doing their best work. Who knew? Oh wait, I think all of us did, but we don’t want to untether ourselves. It’s important, though. Unplugging gives our brains the space they need to effectively problem solve.

But problem solving and stopping the negative thought cycle are not the only bonuses to hiking. Hiking is aerobic exercise, and aerobic exercise has been shown to help prevent memory loss. This is something I’m starting to think about more with each passing birthday!

black eye

Whoops!

There is just one way hiking can change our brains for the worse, and that’s if you fall and crack your cheek on a rock leading to a concussion. This wouldn’t happen to most hikers, but if you’re a clumsy hiker like I clearly am, make sure you always take your hiking poles so that you only experience the positive brain benefits to hiking! (I’m fine now, and the bruise only lasted six weeks!)

Hiking is an easy activity to get into. It doesn’t cost much, it’s fun, there are all kinds of beautiful places to hike no matter where you live, and people of all ages and skill levels can hike. If you haven’t tried hiking, we highly recommend it, but be warned, it can be addicting. Hope you find your perfect hike — whether it’s during a week or a weekend!

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