During the past year or so there has been much discussion of the powers and benefits of getting outside for a good walk. Now, neuroscientists have proven that taking more outdoor walks is also great for your brain structure.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development studied six adults over six to eight months, tracking their daily behaviors while taking 40 to 50 MRI scans of each of their brains. Through this in-depth analysis, they found that outdoor activity positively impacts brain structure.
The researchers found that time spent outdoors is linked with more gray matter in parts of the prefrontal cortex that oversee cognitive control, regulation, and planning. Psychologist and neuroscientist at the institute and lead author of the study Simone Kühn says that their results “show that our brain structure and mood improve when we spend time outdoors. This most likely also affects concentration, working memory, and the psyche as a whole.”
The researchers also recognize that plenty of the psychiatric disorders that people face today are associated with less grey matter in the areas mentioned above, so in the future, walks outside may be prescribed as part of mental health treatment. The weather doesn’t even necessarily have to be pleasant, as they found that the benefits remain even when controlling for variables like sunshine, exercise, and fluid intake.
So, put on your walking shoes and reap the mind-clearing, health-boosting, mood-improving benefits of a little dose of the outdoors.