It had been nearly 40 years since I climbed a tree, and to be honest it was not something
I’d expected to do again. But earlier this summer, I found myself on the Isle of Wight, putting
on a safety helmet and harness and preparing to scale a 70ft oak tree, using only ropes and my
For grown-ups, tree climbing is not only a chance to relive childhood adventures while flexing
some underused muscles again, it can also give your brain a big boost. Research published at
the University of North Florida revealed that tree climbing can benefit our working memory.
This is the part of our memory we rely on to follow instructions or directions and to remember
phone numbers or items on a shopping list. The researchers discovered that when you climb
a tree, your brain is constantly calculating and evaluating your spatial awareness, balance and
orientation. This provides it with a vigorous workout. Quite simply, after such a challenging
physical activity, your brain becomes extremely alert and ready for mental tasks.
With this information firmly in mind, my wife and I, along with our sons, decided to see whether
tree climbing would work that well in our case. We headed to the Isle of Wight, where Paul
McCathie, an experienced tree surgeon, runs a tree climbing business. Here anyone over the
age of eight can learn to climb safely.
Before we started, any fears we had about tree climbing – everything from branches giving way
to suffering vertigo – were calmly talked through by Paul. He had us trained before we set off
and managed to pacify all our worries. Think the rope’s going to snap, for instance? Don’t
worry. Each one could bear the weight of a two-ton rhino. Paul explained we would be secured
to the rope via a carabiner, a metal loop attached to a waist harness. Surprisingly, I felt totally
secure in the harness. He also assured us that we could come down at any time.
When our two hours were up, we were exhausted but didn’t feel like returning to ground level.
When we started climbing, I had the sensation of everything spinning around, but in the end
I was surprised to find the experience really calming. We all agreed it was one of the most
challenging and thrilling family activities we had done together.
Did it work? Did I feel more alert after my brain workout? I did my weekly supermarket
shopping that evening and I didn’t forget any of the items I was supposed to buy. It’s not proof
but the scientists might be right.
adapted from www.express.co.uk