Submitted by Kate Lemon, North Country Trail Association
The Healing Power of Hiking
By the North Country Trail Association (NCTA)
Though it is a well-known fact that being outside can significantly impact our health, a new study suggests that it may have even greater effects on our health than we previously thought.
A new study has been published, examining the impact of a limited amount of time spent in nature on the risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. In a study conducted by Harvard researchers, 62 million Medicare beneficiaries were analyzed. Their findings, indicate that people with more access to the outdoors and hiking were hospitalized less often for Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and Parkinson's disease than those living in urban areas with a higher-density population.
In a smaller study published last year, researchers found that being out in nature and hiking was associated with lower rates of dementia in older Americans living in regions with access to nature and hiking opportunities. Another study conducted in the U.K. found that people living in lush natural environments had a slower rate of cognitive decline over 10 years. Research also demonstrates that spending time in nature can reduce your chances of needing blood pressure medication by 36 percent, according to one study done in Finland.
The Japanese practice of going outside to heal is called shinrin-yoku, which literally means "forest bathing" in Japanese. The Japanese have such a strong belief in the proven health benefits of nature that they have integrated it into their national health program. Researchers also believe that forest bathing may boost the immune system and reduce stress and anxiety.
Hiking on the North Country National Scenic Trail is a great way to get out and experience nature while staying safe and healthy. In addition to all the health benefits, hiking can also help you build strong relationships with friends and family members who join you on your journey. This National Scenic Trail winds right through Lowell and is easy to access from a number of places. The national headquarters of the North Country Trail Association is also downtown on Main Street. Find resources like free maps and motivation like the Hike 100 Challenge at northcountrytrail.org, and stop into the Trail Shop any Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (ET).