Stressed Out? Take a Hike

When faced with a 40-plus hour work week, bills to pay, and trekking the kids to-and-fro, how do you let loose? This summer, make it a point to relieve your stress by utilizing the great outdoors.

Exercise has long been touted as an excellent and natural way to manage stress. According to Harvard Public Health, exercise can help improve your mood, combat depression, and boost your self-esteem. But where you exercise makes a difference, too. A study conducted by the College of Forestry at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, found that nature-based recreation had a significant effect on improving one's mood.

What's more, researchers at Loyola University Chicago's Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON) found that vitamin D—a vitamin produced in the skin after exposure to the sun's rays—improves mood and prevents depression when more time is spent indoors.

Making the Outdoors Part of Your Life 

With the right approach and know how, you can reap all the benefits of getting outside and shaking the anxiety of the daily grind. 

  1. Look locally. Access your town's recreation commission for information about local parks and forests as well as any organized activities they may offer. Also, the U.S. Forest Service can provide information about national parks in your area. For more information, visit
  2. Take a hike.  Remove yourself from all air, noise, and light pollution and immerse yourself in the call of native birds and bubbling brooks. Free your mind of the sensory overload associated with city life by taking a day trip to tackle the trails with a loved one.
  3. Go camping. For some, the thought of sleeping on the ground, cooking meals over an open flame, and a weekend spent without electricity sounds like heaven. For others, it sounds hellish. However, slowing things down and getting away from it all with your family may provide you with some much needed respite from the rigors of the week.
  4. Hop on a bike. Cycling can be an excellent, low-impact way for you to connect with the outdoors. Can't dedicate a whole weekend to taking the family on a getaway? Designate an evening each week for a family bike ride. Not only will you spend quality time together, but you may find out something new about your neighborhood.
  5. Exercise outdoors. In warmer weather or milder climates, many gyms and town parks offer exercise classes outdoors. Whether it's yoga in the park, tai chi in the public garden, or a local charity's 5k, the opportunities for outdoor calorie burning are plenty.




Illinois Department of Public Health
"Environmental Health Fact Sheet" 

Harvard Health Publications
Exercise and Depression

Paul Finnicum, Jeffrey B. Zeiger
Managing stress through outdoor recreation. (Cover Story): An article from: Parks & Recreation 

R.B. Hull
Nature-based Recreation, mood change, and stress restoration
Leisure Sciences: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Volume 17, Issue 1, 1995, Pages 1 - 14 

The Cleveland Clinic
"What is Seasonal Depression?"