OPINION: Hiking improves mental health

Getting outside, exercising is one of the best ways to help maintain mental health

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ANNIKA ZEIGLER

It’s important to get out and get exercise, not just for physical health, but for mental health as well.

PORTIA SIMMONS, Evergreen columnist

Since the beginning of quarantine, more people have been experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

I have depression and anxiety, and COVID-19 has definitely worsened both. One way that I try to combat these issues is by walking and hiking. I’ve always loved hiking, and I think it is extremely important, especially during this time.

“It’s just nice because you can lose track of time … It brings you a lot of peace and calm to be out and not thinking about time or schedules,” said Hannah Kiser, graduate assistant for University Recreation’s Adventure Programs.

Jonathan Stahl, assistant director of the UREC’s Adventure Programs and Experiential Learning, mentioned the relationships that can be built through camping.

“Whether it’s forging new friendships with people with similar interests or deepening the bonds between family members or partners, sharing experiences in nature is an excellent way to get to know people better,” Stahl said.

Stahl said spending time in nature is a great way to manage stress, lower heart rate and mitigate the risk of depression and anxiety.

“I think there’s a lot of good reasons to get outside and hike,” Stahl said.

Kiser said hiking has improved her mental health. She said hiking gives her a break from Zoom classes.

“Even if I can just get out for 10 or 15 minutes to be outside, I immediately feel like a weight has been lifted off of me,” Kiser said. “I’ve never regretted a walk or hike in my life.”

Stahl mentioned going on a backpacking trip with his daughter last May.

“Everything felt normal,” Stahl said. “It didn’t feel like we were in a pandemic.”

Kiser said Kamiak Butte, Moscow Mountain, Steptoe Butte, are good trails for beginners. Conservation parks in Pullman, the arboretum on campus and farm roads offer great views, Kiser said.

Stahl said people can easily enjoy nature in town if they don’t have access to parks.

“It’s not limited to just the places we go hiking with vehicles,” Stahl said. “You can get a lot of the same benefits of stress reduction by going for a walk and being in nature without having to be at a county park.”

Kiser said she loves to take walks around town.

“We live in a really beautiful area to do that,” Kiser said. “We get some amazing views that you wouldn’t expect just from the middle of town.”

Stahl and Kiser both mentioned the amazing wildlife they have spotted on their past excursions.

“It’s beautiful out here,” Stahl said. “I’ve seen bald eagles and there’s deer, and just getting to connect with wildlife and seeing big open views is really important for us as humans.”

“It inspires the wonder that is so fundamental to humans,” Kiser said.

Kiser said she saw a four-point buck in front of a sunset. She said that moment made her day.

The Outdoor Recreation Center has and nature activities available to beginners. Students can call the center at 509-335-1892.

“I think that we should take more time to enjoy those things in life, and we don’t need to go very far luckily, if you live in Pullman, to get something like that,” Kiser said.

I was inspired by what Kiser and Stahl said — I have been going on more walks, so much that I took a 2-mile walk I today. It is something to look forward to, and it definitely helps with my mood and sleep. I definitely am looking forward to enjoying more time in nature.