TAKE A HIKE

Women's Health (UK) - - WH PROMOTION -

Hik­ing has had a well­ness makeover. And the ben­e­fits go be­yond com­plet­ing the rings on your Ap­ple Watch. When you set off on a walk, your heart rate in­creases, pump­ing more blood and oxy­gen to your or­gans, in­clud­ing your brain. It’s the rea­son stud­ies have shown that peo­ple per­form bet­ter on tests in­volv­ing mem­ory and at­ten­tion dur­ing or after mild ex­er­tion, the kind you do on a hike. That’s true of your av­er­age mind, but when you look at the im­pact of walk­ing on an anx­ious mind, some­thing spe­cial seems to hap­pen. Re­search has proven that ex­er­cise re­duces both self-re­ported feel­ings of stress and phys­i­o­log­i­cal signs of anx­i­ety. And the ef­fect be­comes all the more pow­er­ful when you take it out­side. So pow­er­ful that a re­cent re­view of na­ture-based in­ter­ven­tions for men­tal health­care con­cluded that mak­ing greater use of in­ter­ven­tions like gar­den­ing ther­apy could help peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal health prob­lems; so pow­er­ful that the char­ity Mind is call­ing for ecother­apy to be recog­nised as a clin­i­cally valid front­line treat­ment for men­tal health prob­lems. I work in Pic­cadilly Cir­cus, and most morn­ings it’s like Pic­cadilly Cir­cus. Walk­ing out of the Un­der­ground, I can al­most feel the neu­rons fir­ing as my thoughts be­come as crowded as the pave­ment I’m at­tempt­ing to nav­i­gate. It’s my sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem talk­ing – the one that sends you into fight-or-flight mode – and when I swapped Pic­cadilly for the Peak Dis­trict, it took a hike. That’s ac­cord­ing to psy­cho evo­lu­tion­ary stress-re­duc­tion the­ory, which po sits that nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments re­duce the phys­i­o­log­i­cal symp­toms of stress. One study found that walk­ing in the woods, as op­posed to a cityscape, re­duced par­tic­i­pants cor­ti­sol lev­els by 12% and de­creased sym­pa­thetic nerve ac­tiv­ity by 7%.

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