We all know that taking a walk in nature is good for us. We move our body and our mind slows down. We feel refreshed. As if this wasn’t enough, recent scientific research has shed light on some of the less obvious benefits.
For example, researchers at Stanford University in California compared brain scans of people walking in a country area with those of others who walked in a busy urban environment. The countryside walkers had less activity in their subgenual prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain which is involved in negative mood and rumination. People walking in the natural environment were therefore less inclined to brood and get stuck in negative thinking.
Next, Canadian researchers found that a group of seventy year olds, engaging in aerobic walking exercise had increased volume in a part of the brain involved in memory. This and other studies indicates that walking can minimise and even protect against memory loss.
Another study from Illinois, looked at 400 children with Attention Deficit Disorder. This common problem, increasingly seen in young children and adults, involves hyperactivity, lack of attention and a low tolerance for frustration. This very exciting research found that these symptoms significantly diminished when the children carried out activities in green outdoor settings compared to others who played in built-up outdoor spaces. Being out in nature had a powerful calming effect on these children.
Other studies have shown the positive benefits such as better sleep, improved problem solving, enhanced mood and reduced stress and anxiety. Walking in nature really does appear to have a powerful physical medicinal effect on our mind and body. And the good news for those of us in Cornwall is that, wherever we live, the countryside and coast is never far from our doorstep.
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