Hiking: A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits

Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 9;12(4):302-310. doi: 10.1177/1559827616658229. eCollection 2018 Jul-Aug.


Research has connected sedentary lifestyles with numerous negative health outcomes, including a significant increased risk for mortality. Many health care professionals seek ways to help clients meet physical activity guidelines recommended by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the World Health Organization, and the American College of Sports Medicine in order to promote active lifestyles and improve overall wellness. Hiking is a cost-effective intervention that encourages people to be physically active while spending time in nature. Time in nature can lead to health benefits through contact with the natural elements, participation in physical activity, restoration of mental and emotional health, and time with social contacts. Benefits may be immediate, such as decreased blood pressure, decreased stress levels, enhanced immune system functioning, and restored attention, or transpire over time, such as weight loss, decreased depression, and overall wellness. Health care providers are ideally positioned to recommend and prescribe hiking to clients. Federal, state, and local natural resource agencies are beginning to partner with health care professionals to promote outdoor nature-related activities. Examples of successful doctor and other health care practitioner partnership programs are described, along with tips for getting started.

Keywords: activity guidelines; health benefits of outdoor activity; hiking; natural environments; nature prescription; physical activity; restoration; sedentary lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Review