An Investigation of the Psychosocial Impact of an Intense Outdoor Hiking Challenge on Young Adults

Qualitative and Quantitative Outcomes


  • Anna Green Gallagher University of New Brunswick



Background: The present study examined the psychosocial impact of an intense hiking challenge (including group adventure, nature, challenging physical activity, and reflection, all traditional aspects of adventure therapy) on healthy adults, using a mixed-method design. Method: Participants (N = 21) were recruited from a group of young adults completing a hiking challenge and completed self-report surveys (pre/post/1-month follow-up) to assess mindfulness, self-concept, resilience, self-efficacy, and depression, anxiety, and stress. Qualitative data was collected via photovoice interviews. Results: Linear mixed models revealed significant quadratic changes in depression symptoms, mindfulness, self-concept, and resilience generally reflecting a significant improvement pre- to post-hike and subsequent deterioration from post-hike to one month follow-up. Thematic coding of interviews revealed five key themes capturing participants’ experiences: ‘social connection’, ‘overcoming adversity’, ‘appreciation for nature’, ‘personal growth’, and ‘symbolic significance’. Conclusions: Quantitative and qualitative results suggest that physical activity-based outdoor experiences may contribute to enhanced wellbeing in the short-term among healthy adults, but that additional work is needed to determine how to extend these benefits long-term.