Outdoor workout is better for mood and mind than indoor
Research suggests moving your workout outside can be a simple way to magnify its benefits, not only for thinking but also health, happiness, fitness and motivation.
More specifically, a new, small study of the neurological effects of “green exercise” — meaning physical activity done in nature — finds a short, leafy stroll improves working memory and concentration substantially more than completing the same brief walk inside.
“This all started with our walking meetings,” Katherine Boere, a neuroscience doctoral candidate at the University of Victoria, who led the neurological study of green exercise, told the Washington Post.
For the new study, she and her colleagues gathered 30 college students, tested their working memory and ability to focus, and on alternate days, had them walk for about 15 minutes inside a building or outside on leaf-canopied paths, before repeating the cognitive tests.
On most measures, the outside walk easily trumped the indoor version. Students concentrated better and responded faster, results that accord with scientific ideas about how nature affects our minds, Boere said.
According to one widely held theory, she continued, the natural world encourages even the jumpiest among us to relax, slowing the onslaught of internal ruminations about every pressing concern, and letting our whirring brains quiet.
In this telling, nature provides what scientists call “soft fascination,” she said — it holds our attention without demanding constant intellectual processing. Our overtaxed attention can reset, and afterward, we can concentrate and reason more readily.
This process occurs on top of the expected physiological effects that going for a walk has on thinking, Boere pointed out, such as the augmented flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. “That’s why,” she said, she and her co-authors titled their new study, “Exercising is good for the brain but exercising outside is potentially better.”