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Man In Nature: How Going to the Woods Strengthens Your Brain Power

Man In Nature: How Going to the Woods Strengthens Your Brain Power

Going on a forest walk or simply strolling through a park will do you a power of good. Not only physically by improving cardiac health and blood pressure, but it also will supercharge your brain power. There are mental and psychological benefits from being in contact with nature that you probably never even realized. Here are 6 benefits that your brain will get from a walk in the woods.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods….I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” – Lord Byron.

1. It improves your mood

When you are feeling anxious or depressed, a walk in a green environment can do wonders for your mental state. It improves your mood and makes you feel happier. This was the conclusion of researchers at the University of Verona in Italy in 2014 who reported that contact with nature was an important element in restoring mental health.

2. It helps you to reduce stress levels

Walking in forests is a popular pastime in Japan. It is called shinrin-yoku which translates roughly as “forest-air bathing”. There is no equivalent word in English. Researchers at Kyoto University ( 2007) found that the subjects who were suffering from chronic stress had gotten the greatest benefits from walking in the forest.

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3. It helps your memory and learning power

Have you heard about forest kindergartens? They are very popular in Germany and you may wonder why. The original kindergartens (“children’s garden”) started by Friedrich Froebel were designed to stimulate children to learn in a garden setting. The children who are learning in this natural setting were found to be better at risk taking and also improved their attention and memory. What a pity that most kindergartens to-day are indoors!

Similar results were found for adults by the University of Michigan researchers (2008). They found those who had walked around a forest were performing 20% better on memory tests than their counterparts who had been walking in an urban setting.

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4. Green will help you be to be more creative

It is fascinating to learn that the color green seems to get the creative and imaginative ideas flowing. If you are ever stuck for some ideas, take a walk on the green side. One study, published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2012), wanted their subjects to come up with some original ideas for using a simple tin can. The experiment showed some subjects a white rectangle and another group a green rectangle before starting. The people who had been shown the green rectangle produced the most imaginative and creative solutions. One explanation may be that the color green is associated with growth.

5. Walking in nature can reduce brooding

Do you ever brood? Researchers wanted to find out whether staying in natural surroundings would actually help to lessen brooding. Was there any evidence to show that city dwellers were more prone to brooding than those who had more exposure to natural surroundings? This is an urgent question as 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Prof. Bratman of Stanford University (2015) set out to discover if there was a link. Although the study was a small one and more research needs to be done, the subjects who had been on a 90 minute walk in natural surroundings were much less prone to ruminating on negative thoughts than those who had strolled through an urban area.

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6. Walking can help you let your mind wander

In our rushed lives, we are forced to pay attention as we cross the street, attend to the hundreds of demands on us and this can be very tiring. We rarely get the luxury of letting the mind wander and the ideal scenario is a walk in the woods. This is how our mind is involuntarily engaged in a very pleasant way. The brain can relax and it can help us to contemplate. This is often referred to as the Attention Restoration Theory and it functions best in a natural environment. This study was carried out by Prof. Cimprich at the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2007.

So, the next time you decide to go for a walk in the woods or nearby park, remember that you are going to give your mental health a great boost and you will feel so much better for it. I mean, you don’t want to lose your mind, do you?

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“That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.” – Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Glory/Bert Kaufmann via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

1. Cat Camel Stretch

Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

Here’s a video to guide you through:

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2. Go for a Walk or a Run

This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

3. Jumping Jacks

Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

4. Abductor Side Lifts

Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

5. Balancing Table Pose

This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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    6. Leg Squats

    Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

    Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

    The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

    7. Push Ups

    You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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    An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

    Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

    This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

    8. Bicycle Crunches

    There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

    Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

    9. Lunges

    Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

    Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

    This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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    10. Bicep Curls

    You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

    Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

    Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

    Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

    Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

    These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

    You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

    Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

    More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

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