Outdoor Therapy Proves to Be the Best Way to Exercise Body & Mind

In our fast-paced, industrialized world, it can be easy to forget about the natural world around us. We evolved without smartphones, computers, cars, houses, roads–we did evolve within nature, though. Which is why it has such a powerful effect on us when we spend time in it; this is the basis of outdoor therapy.
More and more evidence is mounting that outdoor therapy is a way to not only exercise the body, but the mind as well. It’s a way to uniquely work through issues and challenges that is impossible to do out of nature.

Nature is the best place to exercise

So, why don’t people exercise? It’s because it doesn’t feel good, right? It doesn’t make you happy. It may make you happy in the long-run, but in the moment it sucks–and people tend to stop doing things that don’t feel great.
outdoor therapyRecently, high-intensity workouts have been popular, but people report really hating them while they’re doing them–which could lead to them quitting down the road. A group of researchers in Austria decided they wanted to know whether lengthening a workout, but lowering its intensity, would create a more enjoyable experience.
They had groups do 2 types of workouts and one 3-hour session of sitting in a common room with other people, computers, and books. The first workout was a 3-hour hike through the mountains. The second workout (on a different day) was a 3-hour walk, but on a treadmill.
Even though the mountain hike was definitely more strenuous, nearly all the participants said that the mountain hike was the least strenuous between the two. Alongside that, their mood scores trended much higher after the mountain hike versus the treadmill.
They also found that the walk on the treadmill left the groups much more relaxed and happy opposed to the common room–meaning that people preferred walking over not walking.
This study shows that a nature walk is not only beneficial physically, but it also provided benefits to mood and stress levels.

Why outdoor therapy is so effective

The study above sort of outlines some of the reasons why outdoor therapy continues to be effective. It’s because there’s something about being out in nature that lowers cortisol levels and releases happy hormones that put you in a better headspace. Combining this power with therapeutic methods creates an approach unlike any other.
Outdoor therapy involves a lot of skill building and mastery. The teens in these therapy programs often have self-esteem issues and think they can’t accomplish much, but in outdoor therapy activities, they learn otherwise. They learn that if they work hard on something, they can overcome the challenge, which removes the anxiety around future obstacles.
If you believe your teen is struggling, it’s critical to reach out to a professional for further guidance.

Trails Carolina is here for your family

Searching for the right program that fits your struggling teen can be a lengthy process. If traditional outpatient therapies aren’t offering improvements, it might be time to look into a outdoor therapy program like Trails Carolina.
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for teens, ages 10 to 17, struggling with issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and many others. We strive to create meaningful change within our students through the use of individual, group, family, equine programming and wilderness therapy. We can help your family recover.
For more information about outdoor therapy at Trails, contact us today at 800-975-7303.

Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: https://trailscarolina.com/common-ground-podcast/ With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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