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The Benefits of Hiking and Why You Should Try It Out

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kent State chapter.

College students undergo a lot of stress throughout their time in school, and hiking has proven to be a great way to combat stress and increase one’s well-being. I conducted a short interview with Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, whose specialty is science communication and connection to nature. Maria and I discussed why hiking can be such a great hobby for college students and how enjoying the outdoors can make a tremendous difference in how you feel as a college student.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Hiking

Although some don’t realize it, hiking is a great form of exercise. And as many of you know, exercise is something that should be incorporated into almost every day of our lives. Exercise, and therefore hiking, is really beneficial to your physical health. Maria explained to me that hiking can decrease blood pressure and has noticeably reduced people’s heart rates. It also has been proven to lower the cortisol levels in a person’s body. Cortisol is the main stress hormone, so really hiking helps reduce stress. Stress reductions are especially important to college students. Less stress means better mental and physical health. While reducing stress, hiking also increases feelings of well-being in most people by increasing what Maria called “happy hormones” in one’s body. Here is a link to a study if you are interested in diving deeper into the benefits of being outside or hiking: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942/full.

Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Start Hiking

Fall is probably the best season to begin hiking if you haven’t before. The weather is perfect, not too hot but not too cold. Maria mentioned that while hiking during fall time, you will see so many different bursts of colors that really make for a beautiful scenery. She also reminded me that fall contains sort of a smoke-like smell that many of us enjoy but can’t really name what smell it is; this smell usually brings up feelings of nostalgia. With the delightful fall colors and nostalgic smell, fall nature can often increase those happy hormones I had mentioned before. Fall is definitely the season to take up hiking, especially for a first time hiker.

How You as a College Student can Begin to Embrace Hiking

Maria’s best advice for college hikers was to keep your comfort level and safety in mind. Start small and work your way out of your comfort zone. If you’ve never stepped in the woods before, start with a paved trail. If you aren’t the biggest fan of small spaces, avoid hiking spots that include weaving through small caves or tight squeezes. Safety is also very important when it comes to hiking. If you are any bit nervous about being alone in a park or trail, bring some friends with you! If you prefer to be alone, just be sure to let people know where you are, keep your phone charged, and be aware of all your surroundings! Hiking is an amazing experience, but, like with most other activities in the world, you need to be sure to stay safe. Another great piece of advice from Maria was that hiking doesn’t have to be something that takes up your entire day. 10-20 minutes of outdoor activity can greatly improve your mental and physical health. All in all, you should enjoy nature and have a good time as you hike. The added health benefits are just a major plus!


Maria works for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, located in Pittsburgh, PA. Check out their website and blog for more astonishing information about this breathtaking earth: https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/blog/category/biopgh. She introduced me to the term biophilia, which focuses on the unique human connection to nature. Hiking and connecting to nature is something that can deeply benefit one’s mind, soul, and body. The past 18 months have been a major struggle for everyone, and we all should find a way to cope with that. Spending time outdoors and enjoying some gorgeous scenery is a great way to support that coping.

Some of the Best Hiking Spots Near Kent State University

Just from a quick google search, I found some great hiking spots near Kent State for all of my fellow Flashes! These specific spots exhibit all of nature’s beauty that I’ve been telling you about.

Go find a fun spot to hike soon, get your exercise in and capture all of fall’s beauty.

Grace Weingart

Kent State '24

Grace is a junior at Kent State University. She is an English major with a Creative Writing minor. Grace is currently a Senior Editor for the Chapter at Kent. She enjoys being poolside in the sun, shopping and loving on her pup.