Five Mental Benefits of Hiking
Updated: Aug 24
After you’ve been hiking and come home exhausted, have you also noticed you feel good? This is because hiking in nature is good for your mind and emotions. You also get an excellent physical workout too, so that’s a bonus. The benefits of hiking and being in nature are so great that some doctors are now prescribing it to their patients.
Reduce Stress, Anxiety, Depression
Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and increase feelings of physical well-being. This isn’t just the opinion of your crazy, tree-hugging friends. A study in 2018 showed that “…walking through forest areas decreased the negative moods of “depression-dejection”, “tension-anxiety”, “anger-hostility”, “fatigue”, and “confusion” and improved the participants’ positive mood of “vigor” compared with walking through city areas.” Got that? Hiking in nature is better than walking through town. Find some trees to walk amongst.
Be More Creative
Want to be more creative? Then take a hike. Hiking in nature removes us from the information-dense, high-impact, 5-second attention span world many of us live in. A peer-reviewed study in 2012 found that “…the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers.” That’s naïve hikers, newbies. If you’re a regular hiker you’re already operating at a higher level of creativity than your non-hiking co-workers.
Stay Sharp as You Age
Worried about losing your mental edge as you age? Hiking can help your brain stay sharp and functioning as you age according to the American Academy of Neurology. In their 2018 study, they found that physical exercise was associated, “with improved cognitive performance in older adults with and without cognitive impairment.” A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found, “Aerobic exercise increases hippocampal volume in older women with probable mild cognitive impairment.” I’m 59 and plan on hiking until I drop.
Hiking can help save you from mental illness. That’s a bold statement, but there is data to show it’s true. A study in 2015 showed that “Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.” The opportunity to relax our minds, and just enjoy the natural world is something we don’t get to experience a lot in our modern world.
When I was a kid, I was called fidgety and unruly so my parents would kick me outside and tell me to go play in the forest near where we lived. Turns out they were helping me with my undiagnosed ADHD. In a study published in 2004 by the National Library of Medicine, it was found that “Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.” Seems our parents and grandparents knew where we needed to be.In nature.