Everyone knows it’s important to get some form of physical activity, be it a walk around the block, a bike ride or pumping iron at your local gym. Some people do it to lose weight, get ripped, or to “tone up”. You’ve probably also heard that exercise is good for overall fitness and mental wellbeing. Does it matter where this activity takes place? Is stepping out the door and going for a jog through your neighborhood just as good as heading to a park for a hike through the trees? There are some scientists at Stanford that would say it does matter, in fact, location is everything.
There was a study published recently in the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at Stanford University that examines how interactions with our environment can play a role in our fitness and mental wellbeing. They used brain scans and a questionnaire “to measure [the subjects’] tendency toward ‘rumination,’ –a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has been tied to an increased risk of depression—before and after the walk. They found that the location of the walk impacted the results of the post-walk assessment on both the questionnaire and the brain scans. Specifically, the people who walked around in the natural setting had decreased activity in the area of brain associated with rumination, unlike their counterparts in the busy streets. The answers on the questionnaire differed pre- and post-walk as well, with less rumination indicated. The lead author of the study said, “This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression.”
So now we know the benefits of getting outside and walking around, but what do we do about it? I know some people will still find an excuse to stay inside and entrap themselves with their smart phones and reality TV shows. That’s why I have provided this guide for those living in Austin, Texas, on where to go outside to restore your mind and recover your body.
Who- You and anyone that wants to tag along
What- Get outside
Where- This is the fun part and can be a little tricky, so I have provided my top three favorite places to go for a walk/hike:
#1 Turkey Creek http://www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=666
#2 Barton Creek Green Belt http://www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=206
#3 Bull Creek Green Belt http://www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html?parkid=221
Why- Running on the treadmill while watching Youtube videos on your phone is not going to bring you the same benefits as getting outside in a natural setting. So get out there and enjoy Austin’s parks. It will only allow you to improve your fitness and mental wellbeing.