The benefits of exercise on the body and the mind are universal. Yet new studies published this month show that even a little time spent in nature may have a profound effect on mental performance. One’s performance on a test increased after a brief stroll outdoors, but not after a walk inside, according to the research.
Canadian researchers from the University of Victoria spearheaded this study. Thirty college students were recruited to take part in a brief study. All of the volunteers walked for 15 minutes twice (either outside or indoors). Prior to and after the walks, students completed an iPad exam designed to assess their cognitive abilities and focus by measuring their brain activity using the oddball task. In this exercise, participants are asked to examine recurring patterns and determine whether or not an outlier has been introduced.
People’s overall performance, especially their reaction speed while selecting the outliers, increased following a short bout of exercise. The amplitude of a cerebral response associated with attention and memory was similarly boosted in their brain scans after they had finished exercising. Closer inspection revealed, however, that these enhancements were only detectable outside, not within.
Exercising has been linked to better brain function in several other studies. However, previous research has demonstrated that outdoor exercise has the same cognition-enhancing impact as its indoor counterpart. The study’s authors were also curious about whether or not this benefit would hold true for exercise sessions that lasted shorter than 20 minutes.
However, due to the limited sample size, these findings should be interpreted with care and, preferably, repeated on a much larger scale. The authors speculate that the cognitive advantages of indoor exercise might be more apparent with longer or more vigorous sessions. Short bouts of indoor exercise may nevertheless improve people’s mental acuity, even if this particular test doesn’t capture the whole effect.
Nonetheless, they contend that the data imply that the environment we exercise in might have a more major role in increasing cognitive performance than exercise itself, at least for short ventures. Notably, several research have demonstrated that frequent exposure to green areas and nature might have various mental health advantages. If the authors are correct, this might have significant implications for how we counsel individuals about their health in certain settings, such as among office employees.