In honor of National Parks and Recreation month, I wanted to highlight the benefits of one of the most popular “park activities:” Hiking. Of course, we all would acknowledge that hiking promotes a healthy body. But did you realize that it also affects the physiological and mental aspects of our brains?
When I was young, being outside – particularly during summer break – was a given. You’d go outside at 9:00, come in at lunch, and be back for dinner! I was startled to read that today only 6% of children play outside in a typical week. Instead, they are spending nearly 8 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, using a computer, tablet, or a phone for recreational purposes. Don’t get me wrong: I have touted the benefits of virtual reality and digital devices many times before (LINK), however I certainly think there should be a healthy balance between indoor and outdoor activities.
I recently read that “nature really does clear your head.” Scientists have compared mental states of those walking through a park versus walking through the city. Persons reported lower levels of anxiety and stress after walking through a park. They even measured blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. High blood flow, which is associated with moodiness, was significantly lower after strolling through the park.
As we enjoy these warm summer days that are all too fleeting in our community, take a moment to get outside and enjoy the parks in your local community. For myself, I think I’ll take a walk through Presque Isle!