The study found that participants who exercised in nature not only reported a decrease in rumination (that relentless cycle of negative thoughts and anxiousness that increases the risk of depression), but fMRI scans also indicated a decrease in neural activity in the part of the brain that is associated with mental illness.
Another brain imaging study led by David Raichlen at the University of Arizona found that running can be a form of moving mindfulness meditation by simultaneously engaging executive functions and turning down the chatter of the default mode network. As mindfulness teacher Elli Weisbaum expresses, the way running inherently connects mind and body -along with the sport’s neurochemical effects- serves as a wonderful and unique way to prepare for meditation, since a common way to practice mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to the breath.
Different studies show the relationship between nature and health and well-being. Exercising in a green environment may be more salutogenic than exercising in an indoor gym environment and practicing physical activities in a natural outdoor environment has been largely associated with reduced negative emotions and fatigue, increased energy, improved attention, as well as greater satisfaction, enjoyment and a greater intent to repeat the activity. From a neuroscientific perspective our mind is a byproduct of the body, since it consists of interactions between a nervous system with particular capabilities to process information and an environment that offers opportunities for action to this organism. For this same reason nature therapies like Shinrin-Yoku or “Forest Bathing” and Trail Running may be considered as universal health-promotion methods which can be implicated in the reduction of modern-day stress-state. Consequently, the physical and psychological benefits of running in nature are conclusive.
As anthropologist Peter Nabokov explains in his book “Indian Running” for the native american tribe of the Yuroks, who lived in villages along the forests near the Klamath River through Oregon and northern California, running was both physical training and vision-questing. For them, the ultimate goal of training was to achieve the freedom to pursue a person’s unique purpose in life. On the other hand Thomas Buckley writes in “Standing Ground: Yurok Indian Spirituality” that indigenous education is based on observation and experience, not on having things explained to you. Therefore experience that leads to fulfillment of purpose is adquired not by passive attendance but by “Hohkep” (training), which mission is not only to strengthen the body but also to function as a path to self-discipline and self-reliance to help clarify thinking and focus the will.
But if all this scientific information and knowledge by ancient cultures is not enough for you, here you have 4 reasons that explain why Trail Running is the best exercise for our health:
1.- Minimalism: Stripped down to the essentials all you really need is a pair of running shoes. Equipment doesn’t matter, it’s just you and the natural environment.
2.-Skill level: Running was an important evolutionary development so it’s a skill virtually everyone has.
3.- Physical benefits: Trail Running also challenges coordination, agility and balance more so than doing it on roads, and running in general strengthens the cardiovascular system.
4.- Cognitive & emotional benefits: As we have seen, disconnecting from an hyperconnected life and working out in the outdoors offers many health benefits you can’t get in the gym.
By way of conclusion, as a beginner but passionate trail runner, I would like to remark the importance of running in nature as a form of training that through exercise helps us achieve clearer mental states; showing us this way the close relationship between nature and the production of our minds by our bodies. To end this article I would like to share this infographic that shows 6 benefits of exercising in nature… See you in the forest!
*(Picture: gettyimages.es & Wild Body Wellness).