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Hike for Health... Join The Movement! Part I

 Hike For Health... Join The Movement! Part I

I Love To Hike

Breathing in fresh air, feeling warm sunshine, and experiencing the brisk winter chill as I approach a summit with a spectacular vista or ocean-view are only some of the pleasures that make the challenge of hiking so worthwhile. For some, the sense of accomplishment that a hiker experiences is only one of the perks. There are measurable and significant, mental and physical benefits as well.

The modern lifestyle requires excessive multitasking, that which drives our brains to easily make mistakes. The effect of nature allows us to remain more calm and focused. As an avid backpacker, it seems that the perfect recharge is to slow down, take in beautiful surroundings, and spend several days to a week outdoors with friends. After a week without connection to civilization, I distinctly recall emerging from the back woods of the Canadian Rockets with an unforgettable feeling of bliss, to say the least. Relying only on six other people and the simplicity of minimal supplies allowed for the complexities of modern life to fade away, helping us to grow close to one other.

Sufficient immersion in nature is key to enhancing sense of self and improving mental performance. Some scientists have coined this process the “three-day effect” as that is how long it takes to re-calibrate the brain. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah notes that such amount of time in nature is how long it takes for the prefrontal cortex (the brain's command center) to calm and rest, comparable to overuse of a muscle during exercise. This is assessed by way of an EEG using eighteen electrodes on the brain to record the electrical signals. Strayer, along with fellow colleagues from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, has found that nature can improve creativity by up to fifty percent. Hikers do not need caffeine to get a brain power boost. Instead, the closest trail suffices. This results from a combination of unplugging from technology and spending time outdoors.

While hiking in the wilderness or natural environments, we may hear the wind in the trees, the birds chirping, and/or flowing water. Likewise, it is often that we may see rock formation and a landscape of trees and shadows. Such stimuli is peaceful to humans and effortlessly catches our attention. Te easy access to our environment that close immersion in nature offers does not require much effort, nor voluntary will, to notice our surroundings. Researchers have shown that this effortless focus disengages the brain and restores its natural capacity for attention. Contrast this with modern, everyday life (filled with constant distractions) which depletes the brain, causing mental fatigue, loss of effectiveness, and stress.

Please watch For Part 2 to learn about the Physical Benefits of Hiking.

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