Posted by: GeekHiker | January 9, 2013

Hiking Is Good For The Mind

As best as I can recall, I’ve never written a post about the benefits of hiking.

Not really sure why that is.  Maybe, for as much as I’m a fan of hiking, I tend to see the benefits as largely personal.  By that I don’t mean that those benefits can’t be shared, but that each person who hikes probably has they’re own, particular set of benefits that they get from it.  Some do it strictly for the exercise, others to commune with nature, others as a social exercise, etc.

It’s a little bit of all those things for me.  And it changes, depending on whatever is happening in my life at the moment.  Right now, dealing with the stresses of return from travel and looking for consistent employment, it’s an escape.  A way to get step away from the computer, clear my head a bit, breathe in some fresh air.

Truth be told: I haven’t been doing as much hiking as I would like of late.  When you’re on a self-imposed strict budget, taking long drives up to the mountains and using entire tanks of gas to do so tend to be pushed down on the list of spending priorities.

A couple of days ago, though, I came across the article “Put Down The iPad, Lace Up The Hiking Boots” on the Pacific Standard Magazine website.  A recent study has just come out citing the benefits of being outdoors, untethered from technology for an extended period of time.  The most notable finding: that there can be a 45% improvement in creativity and intuition after merely four days in the great outdoors.  They theorize that this improvement “comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology.”  Whether it’s just being outside, or just being away from technology, or a combination of both will be the subject of future study.

As someone who has benefited from being outdoors for years, albeit in the form of dayhikes rather than the lengthy backpacking trips that used in the study, I found it a fascinating read.  A bit depressing, too, when reading “that the average American child spends just 15 to 25 minutes playing outside each day, but some seven and a half hours in front of a screen.”  Wow.

I’ve made it out on the trail twice since the beginning of the year, to a relatively close location, and felt the benefits.  Reading this article, however, makes me think that perhaps I should bump hiking up a bit in the financial priority list, and that the benefits to my thinking processes might be worthy of the expense.

You can read the full study here, though I’ll admit I only made it through the abstract before I got a little lost in the text.  Maybe I needed to be reading it outside.

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Responses

  1. I have always felt like camping, hiking and even just being in the backyard repairs a part of my soul. When I went to Yellowstone the last time, I literally felt like my heart might explode when we got out of the car. I love what this article says and I might have to share it on Facebook. :)

    • Yeah, Yellowsone (which I visited in 2011 and have yet to write about) is one of my absolute favorites. Now, if only I had my own backyard…

  2. I knew I always feel better when I’m outside – either on a trail or just out on a sidewalk somewhere. I’ll have to add the article to my increasingly long reading list.

    • Don’t worry, the article is short. Now, if you’re gonna read the actual research paper on the other hand…

  3. Any groups you could hike with that might help cut the cost a bit? Or what about a post on a local (electronic or cork) bulletin board, asking to hitch a ride or looking for fellow-cash-strapped hikers to share gas costs?

    Hell, you wouldn’t even have to hike together if you didn’t want to; just car-share to the trailhead, and off you go.


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