A walk in the park

Photo by Thomas Shahan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Those of us lucky enough to work in the outdoor industry know the rejuvenating effects nature can have. And we have the science to back us up.

A study from Scotland found that spending time in green spaces can ease the relatively modern condition known as brain fatigue.

Simply put, brain fatigue is what happens when you are constantly bombarded by stimulation — traffic noises, lights from technology, and other conditions of life in an urban environment. Having to respond to all that stimuli can result in your mind being unable to stay calm and focused.

The idea that natural settings have calming effects has a long list of scientific research to back it up, not to mention common sense. Previous studies have found that levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — are lower in people who live near trees or parks. Children with attention disorder perform better on cognitive tests after a walk among trees. And participants in one study registered more calm, meditative brain waves after viewing photographs of natural scenes.

The Scottish study went steps further, literally. A portable machine that studies brainwaves was strapped to the study group, who then took a short stroll through three different sections of town; a historic shopping district with old buildings, crowded sidewalks and light vehicle traffic; a park-like setting; and a busy, commercial district with heavy traffic and concrete buildings.

The walkers’ brain waves were the calmest when walking through the park, easing the waves that signaled frustration triggered by walking in the urban settings.

The study’s authors made it clear that nature doesn’t turn the brain off.

“Natural environments still engage” the brain, researcher Jenny Roe said in an interview with the New York Times, but the focus is “effortless. It’s called involuntary attention … It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection. … It is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”

Need to reboot your brain? September is the perfect time to visit the Rockies. The turning of the aspens provides brilliant colors, and the cooling temperatures make hikes among the foothills and the Front Range much more pleasant.

Book your hike today by calling us at 720-242-9828

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