Find Happiness On The Hiking Trail

For quite some time, studies have shown that physical activity can increase feelings of energy and reduce fatigue. They can also increase levels of neurotransmitters that can promote energy and enhance mood. Dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin increase due to regular exercise. Partner exercise with nature, and you have a healthy combination that can take your fitness to the next level.

So, the next time someone tells you to take a hike, say YES!

In a recent, small study, 42 individuals were asked to complete one of three protocols: about 3 hours of hiking, about 3 hours of walking on an indoor treadmill, or some sort of sedentary task like reading. The treadmill intervention was designed to mimic the outdoor scenario in distance, elevation and average inclination.

All participants completed a variety of questionnaires designed to assess feelings, arousal and mood. Subjects also reported ratings of perceived exertion.

Data showed that each of the active interventions yielded increases in feelings of pleasure, elation and calmness, as well as lower levels of fatigue and anxiety, compared with the sedentary protocol. However, positive outcomes were more pronounced in the hiking group that were also exposed to nature during their exercise rituals.

“The results indicate that a 3-hour physical activity (PA) intervention (mountain hiking) elicits higher positive and lower negative affective responses compared to a sedentary control situation and to an indoor PA condition,” the authors concluded. “Outdoor mountain hiking can be recommended by health professionals as a form of PA with the potential to positively influence affective responses.”