How do you feel when you go hiking in the wilderness?
A study commissioned by Mind, a leading British mental health charity, suggests hiking contributes to improved mental and emotional health. Focusing on people affected by depression, researchers from the University of Essex compared the benefits of hiking a trail through the woods and around a lake in a nature park to walking in an indoor shopping center. The researchers found that the hikers realized far greater benefits than the mall walkers.
In fact, they found that taking a hike in the countryside reduces depression, whereas walking in a shopping center increases depression. Results from the 2007 study showed that 71 percent reported decreased levels of depression after hiking, while 22 percent of the participants felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping center. Ninety percent reported their self-esteem increased after the nature hike, while 44 percent reported decreased self-esteem after walking around the shopping center. Eighty-eight percent of people reported improved mood after hiking, while 44.5 percent reported feeling in a worse mood after the shopping-center walk.
The American Hiking Society, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes hiking, produces a widely circulated fact sheet, “Health Benefits of Hiking,” that relies on studies, mostly of walking, made by the American Diabetes, American Heart and American Lung associations to make the case. Hiking-specific research is likely to be of more value in linking hiking and good health than the general “Exercise is Good for You” studies long used by AHS and other advocacy groups.
“Hiking for health is what we’re all about, so we’re glad the benefits are getting quantified,” declared Tracy Roseboom, senior national campaign manager for Hike For Discovery, a program of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that offers its supporters in chapters nationwide an opportunity to take a hike while raising money for cancer research.
Participants train and take practice hikes in their home locales for 14 to 16 weeks before embarking on a marquee hike in a natural wonderland, such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or Maui. Most hikers look at the training as a way to get fit for the once-in-a-lifetime hike, as well as for better overall health and fitness. Roseboom said the health benefits of hiking have been a key selling point for the program since it began in 2006.
We suggest going for a gentle to moderate hike today. Get the blood pumping and go somewhere a little bit outside of your comfort zone. Explore your area and take a new route. Be sure to be safe and don’t get lost… the dangerous kind of lost. Take a friend or a furry companion for more fun.Tell us about your hike in the