Study finds 20 minutes in nature reduces stress

Hidden gem hiking spots like Idler’s Rest work to lower anxiety



The Outdoor Recreation Center offers information on local trails and destinations.

MILA WIDMAYER, Evergreen columnist

While it is often talked about in various health programs, infomercials and New Year’s Eve resolutions, research shows going out into nature can actually help your health and mental well-being.

In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology called “Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers” researchers found that by going outside for a mere 20 minutes per day, people of all ages can greatly decrease their stress levels.

Donald Schmit, coordinator at the Outdoor Recreation Center rental shop and Coug Bikes, said he attended a conference in October about meshing outdoor recreation and public health — all about the health benefits of getting outside.

“Most of us at the ORC tend to get outside quite often,” Schmit said. “Part of the reason we all work here is because we found the benefits of getting outside and want to help introduce other people into that lifestyle.”

One of the easiest ways to get outside and enjoy nature is finding a quiet place to hike. Bringing friends along on a journey through different elevations is a great way to bond and alleviate the daily stresses of life.

“Hiking is a big stress reliever,” said Emilie Weyer, a sophomore nursing major. “I try not to let myself think about anything else when I’m hiking because then I don’t enjoy the nature around me.”

Weyer often finds herself hiking at Kamiak Butte County Park in Whitman County, Palouse Falls and Mount Margaret in the South Cascades.

“The two secret hiking spots would be Idler’s Rest and Moscow Mountain,” Schmit said. “Idler’s Rest is a small area owned by the Palouse Land Trust and it’s a beautiful forest spot with a little stream running through it.”

As a smaller area with no more than a five-mile loop to traverse through, some students say Idler’s Rest is serene.

“People realize Moscow Mountain exists, but they don’t necessarily know that the whole mountain is covered with trails for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding,” Schmit said. “The trail running organization also uses the trails quite often.”

If you’re looking for more resources on places to get out and explore within Eastern Washington, the ORC has got it all. They provide quick info guides for local hiking locations and hot springs, all within a few hours of Pullman, Schmit said.

There are many other ways to participate in the Palouse outdoor recreation sphere if employment isn’t something that can necessarily fit into your schedule.

“If you’re looking to volunteer, [Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association]’s always looking for volunteers for trail days,” Schmit said. “The Palouse Land Trust and the Phoenix Conservancy are always looking for individuals to help with restoration or trail projects – the CCE and ORC also run cleanup days as well, whether it be done at Granite Point Lane, the dunes or local areas.”

By taking part in volunteering events held by the many trail conservation organizations in the Palouse, chances are high that you will find like-minded individuals to go on outdoor adventures with.

“Even when I find I don’t have enough time, just getting out on a quick hike never feels like I spent it poorly,” Schmit said. “It usually makes me feel a little more relaxed and focused on what I need to do the rest of the day to where I’m much more productive.”