Should Hiking be Your Next Prescription?

Whether you hike to the top of that mountain for the Instagram photo or a quick exercise, a recent study shows that there are more benefits than you may have expected.

Contact with nature has mental health benefits, according to “A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits.”

“Time in nature can lead to health benefits through contact with the natural elements, participation in physical activity, restoration of mental and emotional health, and time with social contacts.” — A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits 

Not only is this option cheaper than therapy, but the research is supported by the Surgeon General: “One out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.” The Surgeon General’s recommendation is to keep up the walking, which can be done outdoors.

However, the study goes beyond physical health facts.

Breaking down the benefits:

  1. Contact with nature. By contact, you don’t have to hug a tree every time you hike. Sometimes you don’t even have to be hiking. Health benefits can also come from breathing in air by certain trees.
  2. Let’s get physical. This is one benefit we all know. But hiking can lead to a better workout than the gym. One reason the study supports is that “many hikers report that hiking does not feel like exercise or working out.” What could be better than a workout that doesn’t feel like a workout?
  3. Skip the yoga. Before you lose your zen over this idea, here’s the facts. Attention restorative theory explains that being in nature restores mindfulness. Even views of nature combat depression and stress.
  4. Get your friends outside. Binge hiking trails may never be a thing but maybe it’s time to cool it on the Netflix. Hiking trails and being in nature shouldn’t a dreaded thing. Also it’s a great way to spend a day and maybe keep the movies for night.

Still debating on going for that hike?

When Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, talked about “Places to Heal,” he put it this way: “To experience their healing power is to rediscover our shared humanity.”

Brune isn’t a therapist, but his statement gives insight to the trend of people going outdoors. By going outside, people can heal both mentally and physically.



So what might your next prescription look like?

One Comment

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  1. I love this topic! The fact that you aren’t biased toward a reason to get outside and hike, but rather encouraging it no matter what the reason is, is awesome. I agree that there are many health benefits, and its great to see the facts laid out. I also love that you are encouraging it as a “prescription.”


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