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This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Walk In The Woods

This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Walk In The Woods

Humans are designed to be outdoors. Our brains are wired to respond to the smells, sights, and sensations we receive there. When we spend daily time outside it makes us healthier and happier. Want to start walking in nature more often? Here are a few facts to inspire you.

Stress decreases in nature

Cortisol is a hormone often used as a stress marker by doctors (too much means you are too stressed) and studies have found that students who had spent time in the forest had a lower level of cortisol than their counterparts that stayed indoors. Office workers who have a view of nature out of their window or through a skylight report higher job satisfaction and lower stress levels and hospital patients who have a view of nature actually heal more quickly. Stressful states can be relieved by “forest therapy”.

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Short-term memory increases

In a study done by University of Michigan one group of participants took a walk around an arboretum (a zoo for trees) and the other half walked down a paved city street; when both groups did a memory test before and after their walks, those who had walked among the trees did almost 20% better then they had done before they had gone for their walk. The results were not the same in the city walking group.

Mental energy is refreshed and restored

When you take a 15 minute stroll in nature or gaze at the stars from your rooftop your slow down and feel a connection to something bigger. This sense of connection helps stabiliaze moods and reduce stress. When you leave nature you feel restored, refreshed and vital. A recent study found that walks in the forest were especially associated with decreased levels of anxiety. Clinically this can be used to supplement existing treatments for major depressive disorder. Another study employed land-use data and satellite technology to discover that access to green space within a half mile of one’s residence is associated with improved mental health.

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Thinking becomes sharper and concentration improves

We know that time in nature is restorative but it also improves concentration; the effect on attention of nature is so strong that children with ADHD were found to have been been more able to concentrate after just 20 minutes outside. When college students were asked to repeat sequences of numbers by memory they were much more accurate at performing this task after they had a 20 minute walk in nature. One of the reasons for this might be transient hypofrontality. EEG studies show that creative individuals exhibit transient hypofrontality when engaged in the solution of creative problems. This means that the brain is actually using different areas to think through problems when you are outside versus inside.

Positivity increases

In a study done by David Suzuki it was found that when participants spent 30 minutes each day in nature, the results were increased personal well-being and happiness. One of Dr. Suzuki’s associates, physician Eva Selhub, explored this connection between nature, human health and happiness in her book Your Brain, On Nature: The science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness and vitality. (I recommend reading it at the beach or on a park bench.)

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Barriers Break Down

A report published in Lancet about a nationwide study in the United Kingdom discovered green space is a profound equalizer of health inequalities. When low income areas were associated with little access to green space, there were significant health disparities between lower and higher socio-economic brackets. This gap was bridged when low-income individuals had access to green space close to home and spent time in it daily. Nature helped to fill in the broad health divide between the affluent and the at-risk.

In today’s climate where we often define ourselves by how busy we are, spending a little time in nature each day goes a long way towards increased vitality and it will help your brain to keep you happier, healthier and more productive.

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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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