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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

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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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