Summary & Purpose
Outdoor recreation, as the intersection between physical exercise and nature, provides a multitude of psychological and physiological benefits to human well-being. Though many studies have reported qualitative stress reduction from outdoor recreation, few have focused on quantitative measurements of stress across recreational activity types, intrapersonal differences, and environmental variables. To determine whether outdoor recreation affects physiology, we collected 190 paired salivary cortisol and testosterone samples and 157 surveys from 88 hikers, 81 mountain bikers, and 44 off-highway vehicle (OHV) motorists. After recreation, cortisol concentrations were significantly reduced in hikers and OHV motorists, but cortisol and testosterone concentrations increased in mountain bikers. These three recreational activity types also significantly differed in motivation and wildlife observations, which could be additional mechanisms of physiological change. Out of all three recreation types, hikers were most motivated by environmental variables. To test how the environment could be affecting hikers, we evaluated the impact of landscape aesthetic perceptions and land cover types on hiker spatial movement and stress relief. Using data from 58 GPS tracks, we found that salivary cortisol was significantly reduced when hikers walked through riparian areas. Hiker cortisol also decreased after recreating in areas they perceived as aesthetically pleasing. Aesthetic quality influenced hiker spatial movement, with hikers choosing to recreate in high-aesthetic high-wildlife observance riparian areas. Though hiker movement and stress were not related to the intensity of visitor use, wildlife observations decreased with greater recreational utilization. Hikers, however, did not perceive any negative impact from their recreational activities. Despite the different forms of recreational activity, outdoor recreation has potential to benefit human well-being. In addition, managing recreational land for ecosystem health and wildlife may enhance well-being benefits, as well as serving a role in the conservation of wild lands.
Date of Publication or Submission
This publication was made possible by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Idaho Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) under award number IIA-1301792
Single Dataset or Series?
*.csv, *.png, *.docx files zipped into a single *.zip
Data headings can be found in the file labeled "Variables." Raw data include salivary hormone data, GPS data, camera data and survey data. Saliva samples were collected via the passive drool method in cyrovials following the protocol from Salimetrics and processed using the Salimetrics Cortisol. Enzyme Immunoassay kit and the Salimetrics Testosterone Enzyme Immunoassay kit. Assay plates were read using Gen5 software and Biotek EL800 Plate Reader. Final cortisol and testosterone concentrations were calculated from optical densities using a standard curve and the elisaanalysis interface. GPS data was collected using portable GPS receivers (Globalsat dg-100). GPS tracks were converted from KML files and processed using ESRI 10.2 ArcGIS. Land cover per GPS track were calculated using a 100m buffer polygon surrounding each individual track. The area of each land cover an individual traveled through was then assessed and calculated as a proportion. Camera data was spatially linked using GPS tracks. Survey data was collected at the end of each recreational trip. The data set is limited to Boise, Idaho and the Murphy subregion of the Owyhee Front Management system in southwest Idaho. A site map is included in the download.
March 24, 2017 - May 18, 2017
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Opdahl, Ellie; Demps, Kathryn; and Heath, Julie. (2018). A Human-Environment Systems Approach to Outdoor Recreation, Human Biological Stress, and Landscape Aesthetics [Data set]. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.18122/MILES/26/boisestate
Available for download on Monday, May 13, 2019