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Walking and hiking as a way of life
Donald N. Roberson, Jr., Ph. D.
Guest Lecturer, Fakulty of Physical Culture, Department of Recreology,
Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Vesna Babic, Ph. D.
Professor of Track and Field, Faculty of Kineseology, University of Zagreb
April 2, 2008
Exercise usually takes place in leisure time. The benefits, mental and physical, of
exercise are well documented, yet, many choose to remain inactive. There is a need for
more research concerning those who continue to exercise. The purpose of this study was
to understand more about the experience of those who are hiking and walking on
Medvednica Mountain Nature Park near Zagreb, Croatia. To this end we interviewed 122
hikers and walkers on-site. We asked general questions about the walking experience on
Medvednica. The findings center around three main experiences: 1. Nature and outdoors,
2. Benefits – Mental and Physical, 3. Interaction with others, and the self. These people
have found a simple way to negate the impact of living in modern society. This research
suggests that civic organizations should promote walking as a way of life.
Keywords: Walking, Hiking, Leisure, Nature, Qualitative Research, Croatia.
Learning about life on the Mountain: Walking and hiking as a way of life
There is an interest in wellness across the globe. People want to know how to
improve personal health. Many are interested in simple exercises that can last a lifetime.
Modern life is fraught with time constraints, people demands, and busy careers that
compromise and interfere with the needs of the body.
To this end, the purpose of this study is to understand more about the walking
experience of those who are hiking and walking on Medvednica Mountain near Zagreb,
Croatia. This is an important study because these people have chosen to utilize their
leisure time to improve their health in a natural and simple way. We interviewed 122
people who were actually hiking and walking on the mountain. This on-site research
provides a needed voice in recreation and leisure research, because during our
investigation we could not find other on-site interviews with walkers or hikers. Also, this
is the first qualitative study of exercise that has taken place with participants from
This research brings together several dynamics - leisure and recreation, walking
or hiking, being with others, as well as geography. The mountain is within the city limits
of the city of Zagreb and easily accessible to a population of one million people. Walking
is the number one choice of exercise for many people, and one of the simplest and most
natural forms of recreation and exercise. The dynamic of being with others during
walking or hiking adds a significant social aspect to their leisure time. According to one
local professor of sports:
There are many hiking clubs and organizations that organize activities such as on
Sunday or Saturday or weekend trips. In addition they may sponsor some mass
activities as World Hiking Day or Sports for All or Day of Sport. Some parameter
could be that 8 to 10 % of the population participate in some organized and
controlled recreational activities. Participants are from all social classes. (Personal
communication, Prof. Vesna Babic, October 2007).
Wesch, Milne, Burke, and Hall (2006) state “The physical and psychological
benefits of physical activity are substantial and have been well documented, yet 57% of
Canadians aged 18 and older, one third of the American population age 50 and over, and
66% of adults in the UK over 65 are considered insufficiently active for optimal health
benefits” (p. 197). Because of this, there is a need to learn more about the experience of
people who exercise as a way of life. The purpose of this study is to find people who are
exercising in this way and learn more about their experience.
This literature review covers a variety of articles concerning walking and hiking.
Much of the literature seems to focus on physical benefits of walking (Albright &
Thompson, 2006; Fisher & Li, 2004; Kato et al, 2005; Larkin, 1999; Neis, & Partridge,
2006; Pagano, Barkhoff, Heiby & Schlicht, 2006; Stanish, Temple, & Frey, 2006; Ward,
2006; Williams & Stream, 2006). Notably lacking were specific articles with on-site
interviews of hikers or walkers in outdoor settings. In addition most of the literature was
based around walking; there was not substantive research on hiking. The literature review
has the following themes: 1. Suggestions about walking – places to go, how to walk, and
types of clothes, 2. Barriers to hiking/walking, 3. Being outdoors in the nature, and 4. The
internal and emotional dynamics of walking and hiking. Missing in the literature is
research on specific countries and mountain areas.
Suggestions for Walking and Hiking
Although many authors discuss the overall positive benefits of walking, likewise
many writers such as Warburton, Nicol, & Breden (2006) suggest that people should
consider that walking not only promotes health, but also is a preventative for poor health.
There are multiple sources of information with various suggestions about walking. This
ranges from research on how robots walk (Alexander, 2005) to specific places for
walking (Jermanok, 2006) to posture when walking.
Going beyond typical vacations, Jermanok (2006) wants the walker to understand
the number of calories that may be burned during walking. He suggests that walking two
miles per hour will burn approximately 170 calories, and three miles per hour will burn
238 calories. Warburton et al. (2006) suggest that the potential walker should not be
discouraged because of the amount of time required for walking, such as the
recommended 30 – 60 minutes per day. If the individual can walk briskly in 10 minute
segments this can also count toward ones overall workout.
Many people are motivated to walk because of weight control. Fogelholm (2005)
& Eating Disorder Review (2004) suggest that 30 minutes of walking per day or even
200 minutes of walking per week is not enough to lose weight. Rather the walker should
increase to 250 – 300 minutes of walking per week in order to lose weight. Also, similar
to Warburton et al. (2006) they suggest the benefits of walking can accrue if there is a
minimum of ten minutes of brisk walking. For example, forty minutes of walking can
take place in four segments of ten minutes each. Lastly, Rudner (1996) suggests the
walker should have comfortable shoes, Kirk(1998) states that walking outdoors may be
more enjoyable than being in doors, and Nawaz, Wilkinson, Walker, Pockley, & Wood
(2000) emphasize that upper body strength can also help to improve walking.
Barriers to Participation in Leisure Activity
Because of the potential of recreation and leisure, such as walking, to positively
impact ones life, it is important to consider barriers that may limit this experience. The
research in this review state barriers as no walking trails, fear of walking alone, and
conflict with others.
Powell, Slater, Chaloupka, and Harper’s (2006) research showed the lack of
convenient places for recreation in lower income neighborhoods as a barrier. Similarly,
Williams and Strean (2006) discuss how barriers to exercise and recreation are often
unnoticed even though a lack of physical activity has become an overlooked public health
problem. Vong’s (2005) research in Macao, China showed the importance of access to
leisure and its role in the community. Although it has been shown there is a positive link
between leisure satisfaction and quality of life, this research showed there is also a need
for communities to plan for and provide for leisure opportunities.
Coble, Selin, and Erickson (2003) emphasize that more women hike than play
golf, basketball, softball, or tennis, and many express a fear in hiking alone. This fear can
diminish the individual’s leisure experience by limiting autonomy, personal choice, and
concentration or flow. Their research stated five main fears in hiking alone: being hurt by
another hiker, having injury, being lost, encountering wild animals or dogs, and a theft of
car or things left in the car. The research indicated that learning to handle these fears will
allow for solitude and silence during the leisure time.
Adding to this is Glotfelty’s (1996) writings that encourage women to be alone in
the wilderness. The author encourages women to enjoy beautiful scenery, to get back in
touch with real nature, and to enjoy being free from stresses of city life. And the author
suggests that women should consider how wilderness may help to provide emotional
outlets that family, job, or home can not.
Conflict and its potential can be a barrier for many. Carothers, Vaske, and
Donnelly (2001) recommend zoning users of facilities with a potential for conflict, such
as mountain bikers and hikers. This zoning through education will help to separate these
two different types of users in areas where they will not come into contact with each
other. Another often discussed barrier is that of feeling overcrowded in certain places of
recreation and leisure. Kyle, Graefe, Manning, and Bacon (2004) found the barrier of
crowding is more an internal state and is often compensated for by adapting.
Lastly, Wesch et al.’s (2006) research showed how a lack of self-efficacy can be a
barrier to exercise especially with older adults. This insightful study indicated that older
adults with strong self-efficacy were effective in terms of carrying out exercise, as well as
Being Outside and in Nature
From taking walks and playing in the outdoors to serious lectures, Evans (1933)
has been encouraging educators to take advantage of the learning potential in the
outdoors. Researchers are discussing and investigating this positive and natural influence
of being outside and in a natural setting during classes (Palmberg & Kuru, 2000).
Research has previously shown that wilderness has a restorative quality that
outdoor physical exercise has a positive impact, and the individual usually enjoys the
challenge of living in the outdoors (Caulkins, White, & Russell, 2006). Also they discuss
how social interaction in an outdoor setting is of a different quality, usually productive
and helpful. Of special consideration is that there is often quiet, solitude, time alone, as
well as a beautiful and natural setting while being outdoors.
Similarly, Russell and Phillips-Miller (2002) investigated how wilderness therapy
intervention effects change in problem behavior of adolescent clients. Findings indicate
that physical exercise and hiking, primitive wilderness living, peer feedback facilitated by
group counseling sessions, and the therapeutic relationship established with wilderness
guides and therapists were key change agents for adolescents. For example, the
participants (young teenagers) discussed how other campers come together for help, and
that being alone in nature for reflection was an important aspect of this process. “By
meeting in a wilderness wearing hiking boots, sitting under a tarp, and eating nuts and
raisins, the counselor is perceived as more approachable and the therapeutic relationship
is altered” (p. 435).
And, again, Caulkins, White, & Russell’s (2006) research showed the
effectiveness of wilderness therapy may be due to time for reflection while being alone in
the wilderness. There is also a perceived competence and a feeling of accomplishment,
when the individual can perform certain activities outdoors. Participants in their research
discussed an increased awareness, awareness of surrounding, self, and others as well as
the feeling of timelessness.
The Internal and Emotional Dynamics of Walking and Hiking
Solnit (2001) expands on the dynamics of walking in this insightful book
Wanderlust: A history of walking:
Walking…is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to
breathing and the beating of the heart…Walking, ideally, is a state in which the
mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters
finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. (p. 5)
Adding to this, Wylie (2005) has described walking in a variety of ways - a
sequence of incidents and experiences, influenced by personal subjectivity and space,
with sensations from anxiety to immensity. He also writes about encounters with others,
the weather, visual exhilaration, and even examples of epiphany when walking. He
emphasizes that walking can vary from precise pacing to ruminative leisure reflection and
even include disruptive and anarchical gestures. But, mainly he emphasizes that walking
is an interaction of self, others, and nature.
Important for this research, Wylie (2005) adds that solitary walking allows for
one to undergo various experiences that otherwise are distracted by talking and
interacting with others. He states: “Walkers …very often find themselves in…a close
visual, tactile, and sonorous relations with the earth, the ground, mud, stinging
vegetation” (p. 239) and that “walking is not thoughtless” (p. 240). He continues these
ideas by explaining that with no one to talk with, the solitary walker can become
absorbed in various mental excursions such as memory, nature, and the sublime.
Walking and hiking is more than merely taking steps. This ancient moving of the
body through nature also allows for the mind to interact with its environment and become
loyal to certain areas (Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon, 2004). The psychological
dynamics of walking are stressed by Morris, (2006) who emphasizes that walking can be
a powerful experience because it is slower than normal life and allows for freedom of
thought. Similarly, Markwell, Stevenson, and Rowe’s (2004) research emphasizes how
walking through historical areas can raise peoples awareness of their culture and
The concept of walking and talking is the idea of shared experiences as discussed
by Kyle and Chick (2004). They write about the importance of shared experience with
friends and family during leisure time. This complexity is described in more detail by
Anderson (2004), and talking and walking or narrating (Adaval and Wyer, 1998) can be
an opportunity for expressing ones frustrations, or the ‘letting off steam.’ The walker gets
a break from the monotony and modern stress of life. One can reconnect with the
surrounding natural environment, get away from ones own personal site, and re-
experience connection to a wider landscape. “Talking while walking also is a time to
reminisce and be reminded of these events or to prompt other life course memories
associated with the individual’s relationship with place.” (p. 258).
This research was a basic qualitative design, which “seek[s] to discover and
understand a phenomenon, a process, or the perspectives and world views of the people
involved” (Merriam, 1998, p.11). The purpose of this research was to learn more about
the walking experience of those who hike and walk on the Medvednica Mountain Nature
Park. To this end there were three guiding questions: Tell us about your hiking/walking
experience, What do you enjoy about hiking/walking today at Medvednica, and Is there
anything else you want to add about your walking/hiking experience at Medvednica? The
interview guide is in the Appendix.
Perhaps Medvednica Nature Park can be best described by quoting the official
brochure – found on their web site: [www.pp-medvednica.hr].
Medvednica Nature Park is in close proximity to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
Due to its numerous landscape trails, mountain huts, historical monuments, and
recreational area, the central part of this wooded mountain gives an impression of
a spacious city park. By walking down the educational trails, you can learn about
some of almost one thousand recorded plant varieties, listen to the song of around
a hundred bird types, and come across numerous insects and animals...The walk
through the forest restores natural balance to life, and each moment spent in the
Medvednica Nature Park enriches your existence. Welcome!
Because of the lack of research with on-site walking, we interviewed participants
as they are actually walking or hiking on Medvednica Mountain Park. We trained five
volunteers to assist with interviews, yet most were conducted by the two authors. In
addition we met with these volunteers to answer any questions. The volunteers
interviewed 20, and we conducted the rest, for a total of 122 interviews. Adding to this
study, both authors are experienced hikers and walkers. One of the authors is a native of
the Zagreb area, and has experience hiking, running, and walking on this mountain
throughout her life. We started the interviews in November of 2006 and concluded in
February of 2007.
All of the interviews took place on-site in various locations on the mountain
called Medvednica Mountain Nature Park. We would ask a walker or hiker if they would
be interested in helping to give us their opinion. We approached anyone who was an
adult. After hearing similar responses, we determined we reached data saturation after
approximately 100 interviews. The participants often discussed the benefits of walking
and positive aspects of being in natural surroundings. The interviewers carefully wrote
down the responses to the questions on the questionnaire during the interview, later they
transferred their information to a more permanent record. After each interview, the
researchers would make additional notes concerning the discussion. The interview lasted
as long as the walker or hiker was willing to talk. We felt tape recordings did not fit in
with the natural environment and would disrupt the leisure experience of the walker. The
interviews were eventually translated to English for analysis by both authors.
Our interviews were an informal conversational interview (Patton, 1990). This
natural flow from the immediate surroundings permits an informal interview that takes
advantage of the context of the moment. This also allows for observation as well as
flexibility so the interviewer can adapt the interview to the individual. A blend of an
interview guide and informal conversational interview was incorporated. Similar to the
advice of Bogdan and Biklen (1992) we intensely listened during the interview and wrote
comments. “Treat every word as having the potential of unlocking the mystery of the
subject’s way of viewing the world.” (p. 98). Also, we tried to create an environment
where the person feels at ease. Both researchers read through the findings several times,
came up with their own results, and then collated on the final findings.
Discussion and Conclusion
The purpose of this study was to understand more about the experiences of hikers
and walkers on Medvednica Mountain. The findings center around three main
experiences including being in nature and outdoors, mental and physical benefits, and
interacting with others and the self [See Table 1.] It should be noted that the interviews
were translated from Croatian into English. The language was left in the original
translation as much as possible to reflect authenticity and the voice of the participant.
[Insert Table 1. here] The numbers on this table represent how often the participants
referred to this particular experience.
1. Experience of Walking and Hiking in Nature
Participants discussed the experience of being in nature and the outdoors while
walking. This centered around an appreciation for the “forest, trees, and woods,” the
experience of breathing fresh/clean air, and the quiet. Also mentioned were the colors of
nature, the various aspects of the mountain, sounds in nature, and searching for and
picking mushrooms. One walker emphasized: “For me walking is connection with earth –
that is something divine.” One mother stated while pushing her baby: “Not sure why it
has this impact – but there is something about the nature, the wood, peace, quiet, it is
green. The people I meet here, there is just a different energy here on the mountain.”
Another woman brought together the aspect of hiking and being outdoors: “For me
hiking is health, well-being, hiking fuels my life, forest is life for me.”
Adding to the experience of being outdoors, one walker stated: “I am here
because the air is better. I love the forest; it is green in the summer. And the nature is
really nice here.” Another similarly stated: “I like to come here because this is a beautiful
place, I enjoy the hills it is not just flat. It is always beautiful, the trees, the flowers. And
it is always different throughout the seasons.” One more hiker said: “Everything that is
negative is just going out. By the walking, by the quiet. You make an effort, and you
have the fresh air.”
The hikers seemed to really enjoy the quiet, the beauty of the trees, the hills,
valleys, and the air. Concerning quiet, other words that were used were “silence, tranquil,
and peaceful.” Another walker expressed: “Here is better air, breathing is better quality,
and it is good relaxation. For me it is escape from city, enjoying in nature and I never
smoke when I’m here.” One made the connection between nature and relaxation: “Nature
relaxes me, makes me feel better, we always have some good tempo of walking. It is
important for us, and I think it is the best way of relaxation. Hiking gives me better
vitality, condition for life, and for living. Nothing can’t make any problem for me,
everything is easier.”
2. The Experience of Mental and Physical Benefits
The main experience discussed by the participants concerned mental and physical
benefits. They were convinced that this walking and hiking was “good for me,” others
said “I feel great,” “it gives me energy,” “I am ready for work,” and “my mood is better.”
This personal mental benefit is described by one walker: “…I feel good when I am here. I
can feel it when I have been here.” Another walker said: “…We feel good physically and
psychologically, I sleep well and healthy; it is pleasure, it is chance to see my friends and
be with them, for me is very important knowledge that I do something for myself.” The
walkers and hikers often mentioned stress relief, relaxation, positive experience, and a
sense of escape.
This mental benefit was also described as “filling up my batteries.” One person
stated: “It is an exercise for me. I enjoy good conversation and fresh air. I can fill up my
batteries. I can throw out the boring when I am here. I just see how simple everything is
when you look at nature. I look at what is around. I have a good walking shoe.” Adding
to this another said: “I keep doing that (walking) because it makes me feel good, I fuel
my battery for the rest of the next week, I’m happy here because the people and their
activities and habits are so normal, food is normal – domestic (homemade)…here is
everything normal, health for environment.”
Some of the participants described their experiences as relief, specifically stress
relief. “I love to be here today with my wife in the nature (very affectionate). This helps
to relieve stress. I am not in the city environment, my cell phone is off.” Likewise another
hiker stated: “We like to come here for fun, for sports, and to go with people. When you
come here you feel calm, your mind is relaxed from nature. You have an escape from
Another explained in more detail:
I like being in the nature, it is peaceful. This helps me to get out of the city and
away from all the noise that is in the city. This can help me to deal with stress. I
come here with friends, and we talk. We have fun. We hike to the top and then
back down. I like being here; it is near the city. So, it is so convenient.
Stress relief may be related to relaxation; one walker emphasized how this helps
him to relax: “I am coming here to relax and to get in good condition. I know if I am
doing this I will have better physical condition. And also I will have a better
psychology.” Another one emphasized: “This is a great place to relax. There is fresh air. I
have been on Medvednica all of my life. I am born nearby…so for me to come here is
also a remembering of my youth. I have a special feeling; I know every trail and every
place.” One continued his dialogue: “I like being in the nature, it is peaceful. This helps
me to get out of the city and away from all the noise that is in the city. This can help me
to deal with stress.”
There were several hikers who emphasized that hiking on Medvednica was
something similar to psychology. Listen to this hiker: “I use this hiking instead of a
psychiatrist. It is good for the mind and for the physical. In one way I am tired when I
finish, yet full of energy. I am full of energy, it is filling me.” And a busy young mother
pushing a newborn: “I come three times a week. (She is very happy, excited, energetic,
smiling.) I used to go running before I had baby. Now I come here walking with baby in
carriage three times. This is like a balance between the physical and the spiritual. This is
Participants also describe their experience on Medvednica Mountain as a physical
benefit. They elaborate concerning walking, hiking, sweating, and many describe this
activity as recreation. For example one walker stated: “I am here 2 – 3 times a week, and
every time in the week I am here walking. I feel sick if I don’t walk or sweat.” Another
person discussed exercise as well as other experiences:
It is an exercise for me. I enjoy good conversation and fresh air. I can fill up my
batteries. I can throw out the boring when I am here. I just see how simple
everything is when you look at nature. I look at what is around.
One hiker stated: “For me hiking means health and conditioning. I enjoy in walking. I
wasn’t visit doctor since 1991.”
Similar to exercise, many participants discuss an experience of health renewal.
One woman stated: “I know this is healthy, especially for bones, against osteoporosis.
When I am doing this I am younger, because I can go. This helps me to be in good
condition for work.” One man said: “For me hiking is health, physical and physiological
relaxation, joy, during hiking I forget all problems.” Two ladies walking together and
carrying umbrellas shared the following: “This is a need for us to come here. We want to
breathe. We feel healthy and happy when we are here. We are calm because we are doing
this walking up Medvednica.” And adding to this one hiker stated: “Hiking is healthy,
convenient, useful for soul, eyes, body.” Others mentioned the economics of hiking on
Medvednica: “Hiking experience for us it is walking, it is everything you like, pleasure, it
is the cheapest way out, and I enjoy the company I am with.”
3. Interacting With Others and the Self
Many discussed the interaction and connection that is made with others during
hiking and walking. This includes those they are hiking with, usually friends or family,
and may involve singing, eating, and drinking. However, the dominant part of this is
simply being with someone and walking together in the nature – walking and talking.
This idea of “walking and talking” was expressed in various ways. One hiker stated: “I
love it! I feel better the whole week when I have been hiking here. I have better health
and I have a better mood. I am here every Saturday about 10 am. When I am hiking I am
talking with my friend about everything, politics, family.” Another walker stated: “I like
to walk and to talk. We talk about business, about the nature.” One man with his young
son in a child’s carrier explained: “I am here every weekend. This is a stress relief from a
stressful week. And I am trying to learn my son to get with the nature.” Despite the loud
crying from his son, the father was singing and talking with him. A young businessman
explained more about this walking and talking:
This is a group of us that meets at 8:30 in parking lot every Saturday when we
hike up here. This is something we can do with nature, something that promotes a
peace. And it has a lot of different tracks (trails), and it is not boring, everything is
a new experience. Food is very good in this hut. We talk and we discuss about our
week. We talk about problems, and it is very help for us to do this. I have been
coming here to Medvednica on regular basis for last two years.
Another hiker emphasized how talking can change with different hikers: “When we are
here we are discussing politics and discuss all this, and we come with some solutions.
Sometimes my wife comes, and that changes everything about how we talk and what we
do.” And lastly, “When we are walking we are talking about our lives.”
Other aspects of interacting with others include people they meet or pass during
hiking, as well as going to various mountain huts, especially for well known local food.
Several people mention going with groups and singing and drinking together. Some
discuss how much it adds to have their dog with them.
Very similar to interacting with others, yet somewhat different, is the interaction
and connection the walker and hiker has within himself/herself. This is a personal,
internal experience within the individual as he/she interacts with that which is around
them especially nature and people. For example, some participants discussed thinking,
clearing their mind, looking and watching the nature, something spiritual such as praying,
and reliving past memories of walking with friends and family. Many participants
discussed how during this hike on Medvednica they would forget themselves, or their
concerns, or problems. One hiker said: “For me hiking is health, physical and
physiological relaxation, joy, during hiking I forget all problems.” Going to another level
another walker stated: “I heal my depression here. It makes me internal pleasure and
Explaining this internal chemistry one walker stated: “When I do hiking I’ve got
more energy, I feel better, easier do other things, easier solve problems. Hiking means to
me realising of stress, health, physiological and physical well being.” This personal
healing taking place on Medvednica is also explained by another walker: “After a really
exhausting week, then on Saturday morning I am throwing out all this bad layers in my
head and replacing it with fresh thoughts.” This concept of throwing out the bad and
replacing it with something new has been repeated in these interviews. Although initially
coming for exercise, these walkers realized that during this process of walking in nature,
they are also involved in an internal psychological and mental healing. Similar to this,
another said: “I can think about all my life and all the things in my life.” Another hiker
remembered: “When you are here you leave behind yourself, all of your worries, and just
everything.” Adding to this another hiker said: “during hiking I forget all problems.”
Discussion and Implications
The modern world seems to separate the individual from natural ways to exercise
such as walking or an agrarian lifestyle (Kirk, 1998; Rudner, 1996). Sensing that leisure
time is compromised in our busy life, some are looking for simple ways to participate in
exercise or activities that can promote health (Jermanok, 2006). And, adding to this, there
is a lack of exercise in most Western countries (Wesch et al., 2006). In today’s society
people spend long hours sitting while at work, during transportation, and in school or
various meetings. Complicating our remaining leisure time, Murphy (2003) discusses that
free time is not necessarily a positive choice; one may choose their leisure time for
indulgent, wasteful, and even dangerous activities. This research has found walking and
hiking as a natural, simple, and healthy choice for the problems of modern life. Also,
hiking on an elevation such as hills or mountains adds to the intensity of this exercise and
promotes more benefits (Jermanok).
As previously discussed, the physical and mental benefits of walking are well
documented (Fisher & Li, 2004; Larkin, 1999; Neis & Partridge, 2006; Stanish, Temple,
& Frey, 2006; Ward, 2006). Similarly, this research has confirmed these mental and
physical benefits of walking and hiking. Among those discussed in interviews were
weight control, stronger bones, higher quality of life, and better circulatory system. Close
to the benefits that Williams and Strean (2006) describe, these participants emphasize
mental benefits – especially less stress, less worry, and positive mental energy as a result
of walking in nature.
Complimenting this research, Roberson (2003) also saw the positive influence of
nature on older adult learning by setting an atmosphere of quiet, beauty, and natural
surroundings. Likewise, Argyle (1996), Caldwell, Smith, & Weissenger (1992), and
Caltabiano (1994) discuss the positive influence of active outdoor pursuits. Our
participants, similar to ideas of Leopold (1970), found the activity of walking in natural
surroundings to have a physical and mental impact. The participants in this study were
continually discussing how much they enjoyed hiking and walking in undisturbed nature
also reflecting ideas of Evans (1933), Caulking, White, and Russell (2006), and Palmberg
and Kurer (2000). Perhaps this is a modern example of Russell and Phillips-Miller’s
(2002) discussion of wilderness therapy; these participants discussed “walking and
talking” as if they were involved in their own personal self-help therapy.
Interaction with others and within the individual during walking was a repeated
theme in this research. Solnit (2001) describes what many hikers were telling us:
“Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as
though they were three characters finally in conversation together…. “(p. 5) This
interaction of the self with the landscape was a common theme with many walkers and
also described by Wylie (2005). Similar to the ideas of Anderson (2005) our participants
described how much they enjoyed looking at the nature, interacting with companions
(Kyle & Chick, 2004), and thinking about the past week.
We expected to find many people who were walking or hiking on the mountain of
Medvenivca. However we were surprised at the number of people who discussed the role
of nature in this leisure experience. In addition we were surprised at the number of
walkers we saw regardless of weather, especially in rain.
The implications for this work are that walking as a way of life should be
promoted as policy among local governments and various civic institutions. More
research in the area of walking around the world, as well as Nordic walking would add to
this research. There is a need for communities around the world to promote walking and
hiking by providing pathways within local communities as well as education concerning
wellness (Vong, 2004). Similarly, Larkin (1999) and Pagano et al.’s (2006) discussion on
a convenient place for walking and hiking was also an important concern for these hikers.
Many of the participants live within a radius of five kilometers of Medvednica Mountain.
This research has shown that walking should be promoted as a way life. The
implications of this are widespread and can affect every home, business, and community.
For example, walking paths should be made available for everyone, and walking for a
minimum of 30 minutes a day should be encouraged in various ways. Similar to ideas of
Vong (2005), crowded cities have a responsibility to provide access for opportunities of
leisure, such as walking trails and biking paths.
As a result of this research, we have two conclusions. There are specific benefits,
mental and physical for walking on a daily basis. Second, if the person can walk outside
in a natural setting this will add to the exercise by bringing the individual close to the
natural world. Lastly, one limitation of this study may be the cultural differences among
the researchers as well as translations that occurred during this process. For example, in
translating the data from Croatian language to English language some of the original
meaning may be lost. Also complicating this is that our interviews required participants
to stop their leisure experience and to become involved in a question and answer session.
There were many people who avoided us; and for some it was obvious we were
becoming a constraint to their walking experience.
We close with a quote by a 72 year old hiker who has walked Medvednica 1,131
I’m a member of hiking club Matica, I start hiking 1978….I hike for health, it
relax me, I don’t like cars I walk always I’m passionate walker. I walk alone
or with friend. During the hiking I thinking or talking, or I enjoy in
peace…I’ve got training shoes for walking…Now it become my needs and habit,
life style, I went 1131 times at Medvednica.
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This research is in cooperation between Dr. Donald N. Roberson, Jr. (Cooperative
Studies) and Dr. Vesna Babic (Kinesiology Fakulty). The purpose of this study is to learn
more about the attitude of those who are walking/hiking on Medvednica.
Permission: YES I agree to be a part of your investigation ___________________
Location on Medvednica: ________________________
Age & Gender: __________________
*Note that the * questions are the main questions of the research. Make sure you ask
these each time, and if you need more direction you can ask the others.
*Tell me about your hiking experience on Medvednica.
*What is this like for you? /What do you get out of this?
*Can you describe for me your typical experience of hiking on Medvednica?
How often do you go to Medvednica/per month or week?
At what time do you usually begin your hike?
And what time do you finish?
With whom do you usually go?
Is your tour walking up, walking down or both?
What do you typically do during this hike?
What other sport or recreation activities are you involved with?
What helps you to enjoy hiking to Medvednica?
Type of shoe?
How did you begin hiking?
Why do you keep coming back to Medvednica?
*Anything else you would like to say about hiking on Medvednica?
Table 1. Experiences of Medvednica Hikers
There are five main findings. Each finding has the three top experiences under that
category also listed. The number refers to how many participants discussed this
Nature and Being Outdoors 65
Fresh Air 22
Mental Benefits 88
Good for me 36
Stress Relief 31
Physical Benefits 84
Interacting with Others 52
Interaction with self 31