Why climbing trees is not just for kids

Climbing trees is not only children’s play – research has found that it can dramatically improve the working memory in adults too.

Climbing trees

If you want to exercise your brain and body, climb a tree.

A study by the University of North Florida found that working memory improvements can be made in just a couple of hours of proprioceptive activities, like climbing a tree and balancing on a beam.

Child’s play for adults

Drs. Ross Alloway, a research associate, and Tracy Alloway, an associate professor who led the research, recruited adults aged 18 to 59 and tested their working memory. The participants then undertook proprioceptively dynamic activities which included the following:

  • Climbing trees
  • Walking and crawling on a beam approximately three inches wide
  • Moving while paying attention to posture
  • Running barefoot
  • Navigating over, under and around obstacles
  • Lifting and carrying awkwardly weighted objects

After two hours, participants were tested again. Researchers found that their working memory capacity had increased by 50 percent, a dramatic improvement.

“Improving working memory can have a beneficial effect on so many areas in our life, and it’s exciting to see that proprioceptive activities can enhance it in such a short period of time,” said Alloway.

Climbing trees trumps yoga

The researchers also tested two control groups. The first was a college class learning new information in a lecture setting while the second was a yoga class. Neither control group experienced working memory benefits.

Why climbing trees improves working memory

Proprioceptively dynamic training may place a greater demand on working memory than either control condition because of environment and terrain changes.

Although the yoga control group required awareness of body position, it was relatively static as they performed the yoga postures in a small space, which didn’t allow for locomotion or navigation.

A workout for brains and bodies

“This research suggests that, by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies,” said Ross Alloway. “This research has wide-ranging implications for everyone from kids to adults. By taking a break to do activities that are unpredictable and require us to consciously adapt our movements, we can boost our working memory to perform better in the classroom and the boardroom.”

Source: University of North via Sciencedaily.com