How being outdoors boosts your brainpower

Next time you’re considering what to do with a few hours of spare time, take a hike and improve your brainpower.

Two studies at Stanford University found that walking a physical path (specifically away from road traffic) helps eliminate the obsessive and negative thoughts that come with brooding behaviour. As part of the studies, the walkers had their brains scanned and it was found that those who walked away from traffic into nature, showed less blood flowing into the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with negative thinking. Conversely, the walkers who remained in car-dense areas, didn’t show these results.

Mind you, any form of exercise is likely to diminish the amount of the anxiety-causing hormone cortisol, to be floating through your body. A solid hike will also help you sleep better, so even a short walk in a local park in the evening can help reduce insomnia. Here are some of the best hikes around Brisbane.

There are lots of benefits to hiking, apart from being outdoors in the fresh air and feeling physically and mentally exhilarated. You can walk as slow or as fast as you like. The only reason to speed up a hike is if the weather looks like changing, or you’re running out of daylight.

You choose the terrain, level of difficulty and distance you hike. Every hike can be different, which means the landscape changes and so does the experience. You can make your hike as social as you like, either walking alone or with a group.

If you’re just starting out on a fitness regime and are embarrassed about exercising on the streets or in a gym, hiking on an isolated trail will decrease the chances of feeling like people are judging you. Alternatively, hiking with a group or a friend can feel more like entertainment than exercise. If you go on an overnight hike, campsites are usually friendly places where it is possible to meet new people too.

Hiking also helps you feel closer to nature and natural rhythms, which may increase your happiness and help you feel more fulfilled. A challenging hike can also help you feel like you’ve achieved something more tangible than completing a fitness circuit at the gym.

So if you want to recharge your batteries and clear your brain, the best thing you can do might be to quite literally take a hike.