Hiking in nature is key for health and happiness despite COVID-19

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Paula Rodenas, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has made us realize how much of life we take for granted. 

Simple pleasures like celebrating a birthday with family, going to watch a soccer game with friends or leaving for a date on a Friday night are no longer viable options.

Since the start of the pandemic, many of these fun activities have been put on hold. Summer plans were wasted and all the fun memories were never made.

But there are still plenty of ways to get outside and make the most of our time during the pandemic. 

It’s great to be at home for work and school, but it comes with its own drawbacks.

We’ve been confined for about six months now and I’ve been staying at my home in the Bay Area. Some places are starting to open following social distance guidelines.

However not everyone in the Bay Area has been listening, leading beaches like Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay to repeatedly open and close for the past couple months.

Santa Cruz has opened its beaches with the requirement of wearing face coverings, sanitizing hands, and keeping a six-foot distance between parties.

The same thing is happening with national and local parks. Gates have opened to allow only 25% of the amount of people they would usually let in. 

Although there are many restrictions, hiking is one of the few outdoor activities that has always been permitted during the pandemic.

Not only is it a great way to get outside and remain active, but research suggests that hiking can offer a lot of benefits in controlling anxiety and depression.

In a study from Stanford University, researchers explained that people who take a daily walk in nature for 90 minutes are less likely to experience depression than those who walk in urban settings.

A study was published by the National Academy of Sciences that proved how urbanization “is associated with increased levels of mental illness, including depression.”

But every trail is different. Some are very narrow and do not allow for six-foot distancing between hikers at all times.

This isn’t stopping parks from making every effort to maintain safety and remain open.

Lake Tahoe has reopened beaches and trails but for a single day use only. Face coverings are mandatory at all times except when performing activities like running, swimming, hiking, or bicycling, or when eating at a restaurant.

Yosemite has also reopened with limited services and facilities in order to help limit the amount of crowds. Visitors must register online days ahead to be able to enter the park.

Other parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park were open but closed due to the wildfires.

Hiking is the perfect solution for those stressful and aggravating days, and there are plenty of options in the Bay Area.

You could join nature in an outstanding mountain landscape, a trail along the beach shore, or in an enormously green forest.

We will have better control over our emotions and interactions with others if we get out of the house when we are feeling cooped up. 

The pandemic could go on for longer than expected, so it is important to remember that these resources are here to keep us healthy and happy when we need it.