The Benefits of going Outdoors
Monday,19 July 2021 11:46 PM IST
Going out on walks has become a regular and popular pastime for many people during the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to not doing many things because of the lockdown and covid restrictions, many people started taking walks to pass their time and to also keep their bodies moving and be in shape. A new neuroscientific study which was conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), suggested that the habit of taking a walk or going out for fresh air has not only a good effect on one's general wellbeing but also on their brain and the brain structure. This research was also published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
The study showed that the human brain benefits from even short stays outdoors. Till now it was assumed that environments affect us only over longer periods of time, but the researchers regularly examined six healthy, middle-aged city dwellers for six months. In total, more than 280 scans were taken of their brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The focus of the study was on self-reported behavior during the last 24 hours and in particular on the hours that participants spent outdoors before imaging. They were also asked about their fluid intakes, consumption of caffeinated beverages, the amount of time spent outside, and physical activity, to see if these factors altered the association between time spent outside and the brain.
The research showed that brain structure and mood improve when one spends time outdoors. This most likely also affects concentration, working memory, and the psyche as a whole. To prove that the findings are in fact true, an ongoing study is going on where the subjects are asked to also solve cognitively challenging tasks and wear numerous sensors that measure the amount of light they are exposed to during the day, among other environmental indicators. The results, therefore, support the previously assumed positive effects of walking on health and extend them by the concrete positive effects on the brain. Because most psychiatric disorders are associated with deficits in the prefrontal cortex, this is of particular importance to the field of psychiatry. These findings also help in treating patients with mental disorders, the doctors could prescribe a walk in the fresh air as part of the therapy.