Mental Health Benefits of Trails

Mental Health Benefits of Trails

Beyond the physical health benefits of trails, the mental health benefits of trail access is also invaluable.

Posted on 17.12.2019

Almost all outdoor recreation activities involve trails in some capacity, be it kayaking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, or hiking, trails are what allow us to play in the outdoors. As we learn more about the effect spending time in the outdoors has on mental health, it becomes clear that access to these outdoor activities has a real and measurable effect on psychological well-being.

Through the writings of well-known outdoor champions throughout history, from Henry David Thoreau to John Muir, it has always been clear that the relationship between humans and the outdoors is important, but now studies are beginning to actually measure that impact. For example, a study released June 2019 was able to conclude that two hours a week, or 120 minutes, in the outdoors is the threshold for when there is measurable impact on mental health.

Significantly, of the over 20,000 people studied in this research, the majority of those who participated took part in outdoor activities within two miles of their home, showing again why it’s important to have trails readily available to the public. The study also concluded that it didn’t make a difference whether the time spent outdoors was in a single day, or over the entirety of the week, meaning that daily commuters who use trails and pathways, if their weekly commute totals 120 minutes or more, are reaping real psychological benefits.

Anecdotally, countless studies show people self-reporting reduced stress, clearer thought patterns, more optimism, and an overall heightened sense of wellbeing after being outdoors. This data is also not reflective of any specific outdoor activity, but rather is seen across all outdoor activities, which again points to the need for trail access for all trail user groups.

American Trails

See also: Health Benefits of Trails




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