Next time you’re five hours into a 30-kilometer hike, your back aching from carrying jugs of water and granola bars, and you think, “I hate hiking. I’m never hiking again,” just repeat this scientifically proven mantra: Hiking makes you happier.
According to a new survey, going on group nature walks can help battle stress while also increasing mental well being.
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England examined nearly 2,000 participants in Walking for Health, an English program that organizes 3,000 walks per week. The survey, which was published in the September issue of Ecopsychology, found that regular participants were significantly less depressed and were able to better mitigate stressful life events that those who did not go on the group nature walks.
Regarding the study’s method, senior author Sara Warber told Outside, “We observed behaviors of a large group, in which some chose to walk and some chose not to, instead of us telling them what to do.”
“After 13 weeks, those who walked at least once a week experienced positive emotions and less stress.”
Globally, health issues such as depression, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia are on the rise, which presents an alarming public problem. The study goes on to say, “Undertaking physical activity in nature is a novel approach for the prevention of these critical health issues.”
And while it may be tempting to take a stroll on a treadmill or along busy city streets for the convenience factor, walking in nature offers the most advantages.
“Walking in a natural environmental may provide additional benefits to well being when compared to walking indoors or in an urban environment,” the study notes.
“Indeed, research has shown that a single, short-term walk in a natural environment provides greater reductions in negative emotions and physiological stress.”
For best results, the study recommends taking short, frequent nature walks on a weekly basis. But if you have a lot of soul-searching to do, we recommend a killer 30-kilometer hike.