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Review

Are Long-Distance Walks Therapeutic? A Systematic Scoping Review of the Conceptualization of Long-Distance Walking and Its Relation to Mental Health

1
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense, Denmark
2
Health, Social Work and Welfare Research, UCL University College, 5230 Odense, Denmark
3
Health Sciences Research Centre, UCL University College, 5230 Odense, Denmark
4
Specialized Hospital for Polio and Accident Victims, 2610 Rødovre, Denmark
5
Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense, Denmark
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(15), 7741; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157741
Received: 25 June 2021 / Revised: 14 July 2021 / Accepted: 15 July 2021 / Published: 21 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Therapeutic Environments—Existential Challenges and Healing Places)
Long-distance walking is an ancient activity practiced across cultures for many reasons, including the improvement of one’s health. It has even been suggested that long-distance walking may be considered a form of psychotherapy. This scoping review examined the relationship between long-distance walking and mental health among adults. Publication trends and definitions were also examined, and the reason why long-distance walking may have therapeutic effects was discussed. Systematic searches in three online databases were performed using a selection of long-distance walking terms. Both quantitative and qualitative studies were included if they examined associations between long-distance walking and mental health in an adult population. Mental health was conceptualized in broad terms, including descriptions of mental states as well as more specific measurements or notions of mental health. A total of 8557 records were screened and 26 studies were included, out of which 15 were quantitative, 9 were qualitative, and 2 were mixed. The findings showed that long-distance walking was positively related to mental health. This was most consistent with regard to emotional distress compared to somewhat inconsistent findings regarding well-being. Therefore, long-distance walking may be more appropriately used to counter some personal or emotional struggle rather than to achieve hedonic pleasure.
Keywords: long-distance walking; hiking; pilgrimage; physical activity; walking; mental health; well-being; distress; nature long-distance walking; hiking; pilgrimage; physical activity; walking; mental health; well-being; distress; nature
MDPI and ACS Style

Mau, M.; Aaby, A.; Klausen, S.H.; Roessler, K.K. Are Long-Distance Walks Therapeutic? A Systematic Scoping Review of the Conceptualization of Long-Distance Walking and Its Relation to Mental Health. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 7741. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157741

AMA Style

Mau M, Aaby A, Klausen SH, Roessler KK. Are Long-Distance Walks Therapeutic? A Systematic Scoping Review of the Conceptualization of Long-Distance Walking and Its Relation to Mental Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(15):7741. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157741

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mau, Martin, Anders Aaby, Søren Harnow Klausen, and Kirsten Kaya Roessler. 2021. "Are Long-Distance Walks Therapeutic? A Systematic Scoping Review of the Conceptualization of Long-Distance Walking and Its Relation to Mental Health" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 15: 7741. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157741

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