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A walk outdoors away from gadgets can boost brain power by half
Researchers found that adults performed much better in a creative test after spending four days outdoors disconnected from modern technology
It can boost brain power by as much as 50 per centAdults in Britain spend an average of 3.5hours watching TV – 15 per cent of their life
01:49 GMT, 13 December 2012
Next time you are confronted with a complex problem, don’t worry – the answer could lie at the bottom of your garden.
Leaving your laptop at home, switching off the smartphone and taking a walk in nature can help boost brain power by as much as 50 per cent, a study has revealed.
Researchers found that adults performed much better in a creative test after spending four days in the great outdoors disconnected from modern technology.
The great outdoors: Researchers found that adults performed much better in a creative test after spending four days in the great outdoors disconnected from modern technology
They say it is the first time that scientists have proven being in a park or woodland can improve your problem-solving skills.
And it may also explain why a holiday helps recharge the batteries after busy periods of work.
‘The study shows that you need to leave the iPhones and other technology at home and give your brain a break,’ said co-author David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah.
‘Too much of a good thing is not a good thing and so for creativity to flourish you need to disconnect from technology and reconnect with the natural world.’
Adults in Britain spend an average if three-and-a-half hours in front of the small screen each day – around 15 per cent of their life.
The population’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle and vast use of tablet computers, televisions, smartphones, laptops and games consoles, has been linked to obesity problems and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
For the novel study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, 54 American adults with an average age of 28 participated in a four to six day hike. No electronic devices were allowed.
Brain a break: Co-author David Strayer says that for creativity to flourish, one must disconnect from technology
Before the trip commenced, 24 individuals were tested and scored an average 4.14 in a 10-question creativity test. The remaining 32 were tested at the end of the walk and answered an average of 6.08 questions correctly – an improvement of 50 per cent.
Researchers said the results indicate that time spent walking in parks and woodlands away from demanding technology helps individuals to restore brain power.
They say a hike provides an easy way to lift your creative abilities after long periods in front of a computer or TV screen.
‘We show that four days of immersion in nature and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 per cent,’ said Prof Strayer.
‘We are not sure if it is the increased exposure to nature or the decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology that helps, but it’s probably a mixture of both.
‘In the real world, you are either in one or other state. When you head out into nature, you’re unlikely to be surrounded by gadgets, while if you’re at home or in the office the opposite is likely true.’
While earlier research has indicated nature has beneficial effects, ‘it’s equally plausible that it is not multitasking to wits’ end that is associated with the benefits,’ Prof Strayer said.
He added: ‘This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before.
‘It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature.’
Mix of both: Increased exposure to nature and disconnection from multimedia and technology improves problem-solving skills