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Happiness Is Found on the Hiking Trail

The next time someone tells you to take a hike, why not heed the suggestion! A new report says outdoor mountain hiking has many significant benefits.

In a 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 or talking. 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.

“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.”

The report appeared in PLOS ONE (2017; doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177719).

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