Background: The current study sought to understand whether trail users reported better wellness and health status compared to the non-users, and to recognize the associated factors. Methods: Eight trails from different locations and settings within Indiana were selected to sample trail users for the study. Additionally, areas surrounding these eight trails were included in the study as sample locations for trail non-users. Trail users and non-users were intercepted and asked to participate in a survey including demographics, socioeconomic status, physical activity, mood, smoking, nutrition, and quality of sleep. Information was collected and compared between the trail users and the non-users. Association of self-rated health, age, sex, race, marital status, employment, income, education, smoking, nutrition, sleep, and mood with trail use was evaluated by multivariable linear regression model. Results: The final sample size included 1299 trail users and 228 non-users. Environmental factors (access to nature and scenery) were important incentives for 97% and 95% of trail users, respectively. Age, sex, mood, and sleep quality were significantly associated with using the trail. Mean (SD) self-rated wellness and health out of 10 was 7.6 (1.4) in trail users and 6.5 (1.9) in non-users (p < 0.0001). Importantly, trail users were significantly more physically active outside of the trail compared to the non-users (207 vs. 189 min/week respectively, p = 0.01) and had better sleep qualities and mood scores. Using the trails was significantly associated with higher self-rated wellness and health score. The longer the use of trails, the higher the self-rated wellness and health index (β = 0.016, p = 0.03). Conclusion: Compared to not using the trails, trail use was significantly associated with more physical activity, better sleep quality, and higher self-rated wellness and health.
Keywords: access to nature; outdoor scenery; perceived wellness and health; physical activity; sleep; trail.