William Woods biology students study nature in the “Best Trails State”

William Woods Undergraduate

In 2013 the state of Missouri earned the title “Best Trails State” by American Trails, a national, nonprofit organization that supports biking, riding and hiking trails across the U.S.

Since then, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has put in place the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge, encouraging Missourians to get outside, get active and experience the beauty Missouri has to offer. The goal? Those that enter the challenge must complete 100 miles of physical activity within a year — through swimming, paddling, biking, hiking, riding or whatever else it may be.

Over the past three years, through the 100 Missouri Miles challenge, over 27,326 Missouri residents have logged a collective total of 5,543,641 miles, and they’re not stopping yet.

In addition to the biological benefits of physical activity, being outdoors has countless other positive impacts on the mind and body.

Nature can improve one’s ability to focus and concentrate. One study measured the ability to concentrate between children with ADHD who spent more time playing outdoors compared to those who spent more time indoors. Researchers found that the ones who spent more time outdoors reported fewer ADHD symptoms than those who played indoors, even when they participated in the same activities.

Other studies have shown that going on walks in nature can improve short-term memory and help with depression.

Stress, something that affects both our minds and bodies, can also potentially be alleviated by embracing nature, researchers find. A 2012 study conducted by researchers in China found that university students who were asked to spend two nights in a forest showed lower levels of cortisol (a hormone often used to gauge stress levels) than students who spent the same amount of time in a city.

A 2010 review of research also showed that, all together, nature can have positive effects on a person’s health and immune system, noting, “all of these findings strongly suggest that forest environments have beneficial effects on human immune function.”

William Woods bachelors in biology students interested in exploring nature for the sake of study, mere appreciation or a dose of the health benefits listed above can take advantage of the many nature trails surrounding Fulton. Additionally, William Woods University is within a 30 minute to a few hours drive from some of the most popular state parks in Missouri, including Mark Twain State Park, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and so many others.

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