Problems are easier to solve in the forest

How nature should inspire creative thinking

Those who are in the nature can solve their problems better. This is the assertion of US researchers who have now presented their study in the science magazine "PLoS One". However, critics criticize the questionable measurement methods that Ruth Atchley from the University of Kansas and her team used in their investigation. The scientists came to the conclusion that cognitive performance improves by 50 percent after just four days in nature.

Hiking in nature improves cognitive skills Today, most people spend most of their time in front of the computer. Social contacts are maintained via Facebook and the latest news are sent directly to the smartphone via SMS. Even ten-year-olds are very familiar with the multimedia world and can be reached around the clock. The price that society pays for it is high: People have probably never been as stressed as today.

Ruth Atchley and her team now present a solution: get out into nature! According to your study, a four-day stay in nature should inspire creative thinking. The scientists had backpackers who spent four to six days in the forest solve various tasks. It turned out that the hikers performed significantly better, especially when it came to creative problem solving, than the control group, who solved the tasks before their hike and answered only four out of ten questions correctly on average. On the fourth day of their tour, the hikers were able to solve an average of six out of ten tasks. "This shows that there are real, measurable cognitive advantages when we spend time in nature," write the scientists.

Scientific method questionable The study involved 15 women and 17 men who solved tasks during their hike, as well as other people who were supposed to do the tasks before their hike. Critics complain that the number of study participants is far too small to be able to meet relevant expenses. Apart from that, the researchers' approach is not very scientific. Here the mean values ​​of the performances of two different groups were compared with each other. No group was tested before and during their hiking tour, so that no improvement is possible. In order to achieve representative results, both groups should have been tested in advance. Then one group would have wandered in nature while the other would have worked in the office, for example. In this way it would have been possible to measure whether the hikers are really more creative than the office group.

As the scientists report, "a four-day stay in nature and the associated distance from multimedia technology has shown an increase in creativity in solving problems by 50 percent in the group of hikers". However, since two different groups were compared, this conclusion is questionable. In addition, the researchers were unable to rule out some factors that could also affect performance. "One limitation of current research is that it cannot be determined with certainty whether some of the effects are due to the influence of nature, the lack of influence of technology, or other factors related to a three-day stay in nature." the researchers explain.

Nevertheless, a hike in nature has many positive effects. This is also proven by other studies.

Hiking in nature promotes health For years, hiking has been considered a healthy form of exercise that can also be practiced when the constitution does not permit other stressful sports. The German Hiking Association (DWV) has certified the concept of health hiking. Professor Kuno Hottenrott from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and his team tested the effectiveness of hiking in a scientific study. Accordingly, health walking has a positive impact on the entire organism. Those who hike regularly reduce their body weight, body mass index (BMI), lower blood pressure and body fat percentage, the German Hiking Association wrote in a message about the results of the study. Endurance performance and coordination skills would also be improved, the association said.

During the health hike, the participants are guided by a certified health hiker guide who not only gives them general health tips on prevention during the tour, but also does various physiotherapeutic exercises with the hikers. To do this, the 90-minute hikes are interrupted twice for appropriate movement exercises. In this way, the positive effects of a hike add up: According to the study, fresh air and exercise in nature improve health. The study did not investigate whether health walking also has a positive effect on cognitive abilities. (fp)

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