Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reason No. 33 to Hike with Your Children: Banish Their Anxiety, Depression

Life is less stressful after hiking past trees.
Are your kids getting a little stressed about an upcoming test or feeling a little down because they can’t get a date to school dance? Then tell ‘em to take a hike.

That’s because being in green spaces can leads to lower levels of stress hormones that result in anxiety and depression, a new study concludes.

Gregory Bratman of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University and fellow researchers recently looked at what effect a walk has on a person’s tendency to brood. Volunteers who walked quiet, tree-lined paths showed small albeit meaningful improvement in their mental health, according to questionnaires they completed. After taking a walk, the volunteers dwelled less on the negative aspects of their life.

The personal responses were backed by tests that showed the volunteers after the walk had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex than they did before. In short, that portion of their brains were less active, indicating that a walk in nature did effect the brain.

Why walking in green space has this positive effect is unclear. One thing is certain, though – the study also found that walking along a highway did not yield the same results. Other studies do report, however, that seeing the color green, sunshine, being in a quiet place, and taking in loamy scents all can reduce anxiety and depression.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.