Does Hiking Help Mental Health?

Numerous studies have shown that hiking is a great way to work on your mental health. Read more to learn benefits and steps to get outside.

I definitely feel that a lot of people would like a do-over on 2020. It’s been one of the craziest times in my life, and anxiety is at an all time high for a lot of y’all. People are anxious about their jobs, paying bills, and sending their kids back to school. The motivation behind this website was to encourage others to step outside to enjoy nature regardless or experience level. But there may be an additional benefits to hiking besides adventure. Continue reading to find out if hiking will help with your mental health.

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Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

My mental health and how hiking helped

In 2018 I was having a tough time dealing with the stresses of my life and my career. I decided that I couldn’t continue self-medicating like I was, and needed to get outside. I thought I would start running, but that didn’t really work out the way I thought because, as it turns out, I hate running.

It was a trip to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area that changed my life, and a decision that guided me down a path of stronger self-awareness and mental strength.

While I’m always learning new ways to strengthen my mind, hiking is just one option for me. When I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder I was given a great guide that I didn’t really appreciate until much later in life.

I encourage you to give hiking, and really just exercise in general, a shot. Hopefully some of these studies give you the boost you need.

Hiking and your health

Numerous reports have shown that exercise in general is great for the overall well-being of your health. Whether that’s strengthening your body or your mind -hiking not only gives you the benefit of exercise, but also the appreciation for the outdoors and travel.

Hiking may be the restorative and stress-relieving powers of being outside in nature.

You’ll be able to see new places that you may never even knew existed, and also learn about different parks and organizations around you.

In an article from Physical activity and mental health: the association between exercise and mood published by Peluso, Marco Aurélio Monteiro, & Andrade, Laura Helena Silveira Guerra de. (2005). Clinics60(1), 61-70. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1807-59322005000100012 , Physical activity is recommended to the general population by many medical entities — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) — because it is considered an important tool for the improvement of public health.1,2 Based on the evidence that this type of activity promotes health and is useful for the prevention and treatment of different types of diseases such as heart disease,3-5 hypertension,6-8 non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus,9-11 and osteoporosis,12-14 the CDC and ACSM have endorsed the following consensus “public health message”: “every North American adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week”

Additionally, a study from Harvard shows that, “Another benefit of hiking may be the restorative and stress-relieving powers of being outside in nature. A number of small studies hint that spending time in green space — nature preserves, woodlands, and even urban parks — may ease people’s stress levels”.

Hiking Anxiety

If you’re new to hiking realize that hiking itself may cause anxiety based off fears of what you may find out on the trails.

When I first started I was super nervous about running into snakes and spiders.

The best thing to ease that hiking anxiety is to learn as much as you can about what you may run into. Educate yourself on the types of wildlife you may see, and train yourself on what to do in worst-case scenarios.

Once you’re empowered with the knowledge out on the trails, you’ll be less worried about the what-ifs. That is a small win in any anxious situation.

Check out this video from Stanford researchers explaining benefits of hiking for mental health:

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