We all know that physical activity is good for our health and well-being, but what if it actually changed our brain structure? Recent research has shown that when you increase the level of intensity and make sport a stimulating experience with the added element of wilderness, the effects are dramatic. It’s not just about feeling better after a good workout – studies have shown that activities like mountain biking, rafting or rock climbing can lead to neurological changes that make us smarter, more creative and even more sociable! In this article, we’re going to look at how exercising outdoors can fundamentally transform your brain.

A recent study published this month in the International Journal of Psychophysiology highlighted the effect of nature combined with physical activity on mental health. The research was conducted by American and Norwegian researchers, who asked thirty subjects with an average age of 24 to walk both in an outdoor green space or on a carpet at home.

By analyzing the “emotions, focus and motivation” of the 30 participants, the researchers were able to measure significant changes in brain activity when the subjects walked outdoors rather than indoors.

Exercising outdoors has many psychological benefits.

Amplify concentration and evacuate stress.

Studies have shown that taking a walk outdoors is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, boost your energy levels, and improve your overall mood. Not only is the experience enjoyable, but being outdoors can also help you focus mentally and improve your motor control.

Compared to simply walking indoors in front of a wall, researchers have shown that a walk outdoors is associated with more positive emotion and emotional awareness. Furthermore, these positive effects were not limited to real-world environments – virtual reality nature simulations yielded similar results. The sense of calm that comes from experiencing natural environments can be beneficial for people with symptoms of anxiety, as it helps divert their attention away from negative thoughts or anxieties.

In addition to its calming effects, nature can also increase motivation for physical activity by making it more enjoyable. These same studies found that people who exercise in a natural environment tend to do so faster than those who do the same on a treadmill. Because people are able to appreciate their surroundings while they exercise, they often find themselves pushing harder and faster than if they were indoors on a gym machine.

Increase your brain activities.

The study, conducted by German neurologists, published on National Library of Medicine, found that spending time in nature can lead to marked changes in brain activity. Specifically, exercising outdoors and being exposed to natural elements like air and light activates neural connections in the frontal and parietal regions of the brain. This results in better regulation of low-frequency oscillations in the cerebral cortex – a part of the brain involved in self-reflection and emotional processing – which enhances feelings of awareness and relaxation.

Other data suggest that these effects may be related to greater activation of the “default mode network” (DMN), a network associated with memory, mental flexibility, and creative thinking. What’s more, contact with nature seems to reduce stress levels, which helps promote feelings of satisfaction.

Prevent psychiatric disorders in children.

Nature provides many physical and mental health benefits, especially during childhood. A recent study conducted in Denmark showed that children who grew up in an urban environment had a 55% higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders than those who had been exposed to nature.

The risk of psychiatric illness is also higher in cities due to the many stressors present in this type of environment. Urban areas often experience high levels of air pollution, as well as visual and noise pollution, all of which can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Such stressors can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, as well as more serious illnesses like schizophrenia.

Reduce rumination.

A recent study by American researchers showed that taking a 90-minute walk in a green space can reduce rumination, that is, repetitive thinking focused on negative aspects of oneself, which is a common symptom of depression and other related mental disorders. In addition, scientists also found that neural activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus was reduced in participants who took such walks; this part of the brain is known to be overactive in people prone to rumination.


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