A Randomized Crossover Trial on Acute Stress-Related Physiological Responses to Mountain Hiking

Author: Martin Niedermeier; Carina Grafetstätter; Arnulf Hartl; Martin Kopp
Language: English
Published: 2017
Source: Directory of Open Access Journals: DOAJ Articles
Online Access: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/14/8/905
Identification number: ftdoajarticles:oai:doaj.org/article:03495015e7bd4899ade599b719794882


Green exercise, defined as physical activity in natural environments, might have positive effects on stress-related physiological measures. Little is known about the acute effects of green exercise bouts lasting longer than 60 min. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to analyze the acute effects of a three-hour green exercise intervention (mountain hiking) on stress-related physiological responses. Using a randomized crossover design, 42 healthy participants were exposed to three different conditions in a field-based experiment: outdoor mountain hiking, indoor treadmill walking, and sedentary control condition (three hours each). At baseline and at follow-up (five minutes after the condition), stress-related physiological responses (salivary cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate variability) were measured. Salivary cortisol decreased in all conditions, but showed a larger decrease after both mountain hiking and treadmill walking compared to the sedentary control situation (partial η2 = 0.10). No differences were found between mountain hiking and treadmill walking in salivary cortisol. In heart rate variability and blood pressure, changes from baseline to follow-up did not significantly differ between the three conditions. The results indicate that three hours of hiking indoors or outdoors elicits positive effects on salivary cortisol concentration. Environmental effects seem to play a minor role in salivary cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate variability.