The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors on Your Mental Health

February 6, 2020

Our wonderful Charity Challenge leader Ian shares his thoughts on some of the benefits of spending time outdoors on your mental health.

Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors on Your Mental Health

The benefits of what I once saw referred to as “Vitamin N” (ie nature!) are many-fold. A huge amount of research has been undertaken on the subject confirming the real benefits of time spent outside on mental health – here’s just a few of these proven benefits from a little recent reading:

Reduce levels of stress

Making time to immerse yourself in nature even for a few minutes can reduce levels of stress by reducing the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and boosting endorphin and dopamine levels – the main chemicals that make us happy!

Increase energy levels

Time spent outdoors has been shown to have restorative properties – increasing energy levels and sharpening mental agility and focus. It doesn’t even need to be high-adrenaline extreme activity – just find a view and stay awhile to enjoy it.

Improve creative thinking

Taking some personal time out in nature can improve creative thinking and restore your capacity for concentration – if you have writers’ block or are struggling with a particular task or project – take a walk outside – it’s amazing how things can fall into place with a change of scenery!

Improve sleep quality

A couple of hours’ gentle walking in woodland or forest can evidently help improve sleep quality. Furthermore, time spent in natural, rather than artificial, light can help reset your body clock, helping you feel more refreshed after sleeping.

Reduce the risk of mental health

Regular use of the outdoors for exercise can reduce the risk of mental health problems significantly.We become nicer people!

The numerous benefits that exposure to nature provides us with also affect the way we treat others – put simply we become nicer people when we embrace nature!  

William Henry Davies (1871-1940) was well aware of this, writing about it very eloquently in his poem “Leisure” – here’s an extract:

“What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare

No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass

No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars like skies at night

A poor life this, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”

So – remember the old adage “What you need is fresh air and exercise” – because it’s absolutely true – and we can all benefit from it – so why not give it a try soon?

For more top tips, and to learn more about all our charity challenges, please visit our website at, and, to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.


MIND Hike 2020 – Whitby

January 10, 2020

2020 will be the 6th year of the ‘Mind Hike’ and it promises to be the best event yet! Every year the Mind Hike takes place in a new location, and so earlier this week our UK Operations manager, Andy Baker, was up in Whitby putting the final touches to this years event. Here he explains why this years Mind Hike will be better than ever!

“The Mind Hike is always a special event for Charity Challenge. It has always had a unique feel and there has always been an incredibly supportive environment over the weekend. It’s for this reason that our leaders always look forward to this event more than any other each summer. Over the years the team at Mind have created a great way of grouping people into different ‘teams’, and the aim of the event is to support each team member to complete the challenge. It isn’t about distance, but about supporting each other to complete the 24 hours of walking. It’s a bit of different event, and was designed specifically for Mind as mental health is all about supporting each other.

For 2020 the Mind Hike is heading to Whitby and everyone who takes part this year will be staying in the YHA that is right next to the iconic Whitby Abbey, up on the cliff tops above the town. Anyone who hasn’t been to Whitby before is in for a real treat, with cobbled streets winding around the old harbour and, of course, the famous 199 steps that wind up to the abbey. It’s a classic old historic Yorkshire fishing town, and there is a reason why Dracula arrived in the UK here!

For each Mind Hike we always have 2 different routes, the day route and the night route. This year both routes are fantastic. The day route will take everyone along the cliff tops all the way down to beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay, a classic old fishing village set right at the foot of the cliffs. Everyone will have time to recharge their batteries in the village before the route loops back to Whitby via the old railway line. Having just walked this route, even in blustery January it was a beautiful walk with the coastline stretching away into the distance, so in the summer it should be spectacular.

The night route will then head north of Whitby, before returning along the beach and then up those famous steps to the finish! If ever the celebration breakfast will have been earnt it will be after finishing a 24 hour challenge by climbing 199 steps to a gothic abbey!

The location for this challenge couldn’t be better. The YHA is set right next to the abbey and people will be staying in an old tudor mansion that has been converted into the hostel. It’s a perfect location for what should be a great challenge.”

The Mind Hike takes place twice every year. In 2020 it takes place on 26-28 June and the 11-13 September. To apply please visit

Don’t forget, there is 10% off your registration fee before the end of January 2020. Use the code NY20.


The Best of 2019 from the Charity Challenge leaders

December 24, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, the year we celebrated 20 years of operating epic challenges, we look back on everything we have collectively achieved with YOU – our heroic adventurous participants – and to share our gratitude to all those involved:

  • Tens of thousands of brave adventurers
  • Thousands of epic challenges in more than 40 countries worldwide
  • Across 6 continents
  • Helping us raise in excess of £59,000,000 for over 1,800 worthwhile global causes

Thank you for your continued support and for helping us to be agents of change for so many great charities. 

Thank you to the staff, leaders, doctors, ground crews and every single person that has helped to create, prepare and operate our challenges around the globe.

We look forward to working with you in the future and we wish you a very happy, healthy and adventurous 2020!

Looking back on 2019, these are the moments that hold a special place in the hearts of our Charity Challenge leaders.

Penny – Madagascar Trek

Trek Madagascar

One of the poorest countries in the World, Madagascar still manages to be one of the richest in hospitality, laughter and community spirit. Whilst we faced the challenges of excessive heat, sterilised warm river water to drink, steep rocky terrain and long demanding trek days, the local children would run barefoot in rags from remote villages with grins on their faces and intrigue in their eyes and make us instantly forget our own aches and pains. The team of porters with us filled every evening with music, song and dance creating a unique and magical end to every Malagasy day. The highlight of the challenge has to be summiting Pic Boby, the second highest peak on this island but the interaction with the special people of Madagascar surpassed anything I have experienced and this inspiring group of participants and I embraced every moment.

Tom – Sahara Desert Trek

Sahara Desert Trek

One of my highlights of 2019 was the Sahara Desert Trek in Morocco. It is a unique trek in terms of both terrain and scenery. The moment you arrive in busy and colourful Marrakech you know you are in for a fantastic experience. The local team (including their camels!) are great with superb overnight camps in stunning locations. The food they produce in the middle of the desert is really tasty and wholesome. The daytime sun and heat is relentless, but early starts mean you make the most of the cool mornings and evenings. Hiking up and over the sand dunes is great fun. You can also meet desert Nomads and get a better understanding of their culture. I would go back again to do this trek just to experience the night skies once again – I have never seen the Milky Way so vividly – incredible!

Ian – Trek Machu Picchu


In October I travelled to Peru with a group to trek the rugged and demanding Ancascocha Trail – a spectacular 5-day trek through the Andes mountains, finishing at the fabled city of Machu Picchu via the famous Sun Gate. I was delighted to help support the participants on this tough challenge. As Challenge Leaders we try to generate a “team approach” and a supportive, positive atmosphere among our groups. This particular group were always 100% committed, listened to advice throughout and embraced the entire challenge experience positively. Some confronted and overcame personal challenges along the way with our assistance. They all worked tirelessly to support each other, and laughed, joked and celebrated their success together. They were determined to savour the whole experience – and they also raised over £93000 for their chosen charities! I thoroughly enjoyed working with them.

Danny – Icelandic Lava Trek


The Icelandic Lava Trek was my favourite trip of 2019. This was initially due to the unusual lunar-like scenery we encountered right from our first night camping in the crater of a (fortunately!) extinct volcano to the smoking fumeroles, misty upper plateau and luminous green, yellow and blue mosses which were sprinkled around and across our paths like some impressionist artist’s palette as we made our way up, down, around and along the 55km Laugavegur Trail. Chilly nights in camp and sleeping on barren, if mostly flat ground tested the team’s endurance but each day brought a feast of visual, physical and culinary experiences which kept them longing for more: whether it was looking forward to the next ice-cold knee-deep river crossing or the next spectacular waterfall hidden in a depression just a few 100m from the main trail. And whilst we were unlucky not to see the Northern Lights whilst on the trek itself it didn’t detract from the chance to relax in steaming hot springs in the darkness.

Laura – Great Wall Discovery


My favourite memory of 2019 is from a Great Wall Discovery Challenge. The team were strangers from around the world. They faced 733 flights of steps together, supported each other on steep descents and celebrated with the local firewater. They each came with their own personal challenges and the group of strangers became a support network who shared something that will always be uniquely theirs. By the end of the week, they had already made plans to take their new experiences and learnings back across oceans with them. From taking up old hobbies to changing relationships, from making more ‘me’ time to a 180° turnaround of mindset. By the time we got to our celebration meal, they had made new promises to themselves and the meal became not just a celebration of all that we’d achieved over the last week but also a celebration of the positive change to come.

John – Cycle Sri Lanka


This year saw me leading cycling trips for Charity Challenge, and a new destination too – Sri Lanka! The trip was for the charity ‘The British Asian Trust’ and I was joined by 21 other cyclists to explore the fabulous country. Our route took us along the beautiful coastline with rustic markets full of fish from the morning’s catch. A quick transfer to the hotel that evening and a visit to the amazing Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. More riding the next day took us through the tea plantations that Sri Lanka is so well known for and a chance to visit the beautiful Dambulla Rock Temples. We also rode through the jungles of Sri Lanka and the ‘Elephant Corridor’, a protected area of the national park where elephants can just cross over the main road… No guessing who has the right of way! The day finished with a trip around the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa with monkeys running everywhere. The final day was spent riding through another national park taking in sights of water buffalo, monitor lizards and blue herons then finishing our journey with a climb of 1200 steps to the ancient royal palace on the summit of Sigiriya Rock. It was a real pleasure to visit Sri Lanka. The people were incredibly friendly, I was waved at by everyone! The scenery is just beautiful and there is wildlife everywhere! I enjoyed it so much, I’m going back in March 2020 to lead another cycling trip! Oh, and the food!…

Richard – Amazon Survivor Challenge

In May of this year I found myself in Brazil supporting a team on the Amazon Jungle Survivor Challenge. This is a demanding 5 days of living and travelling by either trekking or canoeing through the Amazon rain-forest. Most of this challenge was completed by canoe because at that time of year the forest is flooded with the normal pathways being covered by at least 8 meters of water, making trekking somewhat difficult. From the start the team really took to the challenge, trekking through the forest with our guides looking for food, paddling through the water highways in locally built traditional canoes (which do require a surprising amount of baling out) looking for dolphins, howler monkeys and fishing for dinner. Each campsite had to be built from scratch but once the team were comfortable in the environment, they soon started making tables and bench seats much to the delight of the local crew. The challenge most certainly put the team out of their comfort zone, but it was the way that they came together through work and laughter to overcome the challenge made it a really memorable trip.

Just can’t wait to make your own memories? Visit Charity Challenge to choose your next challenge


10 unexpected experiences trekking the Great Wall

October 28, 2019

Charity Challenge’s Marketing Manager, Jenny, had many wonderfully unexpected experiences on the Great Wall Discovery Challenge. She’s shared her top 10, so anyone thinking of joining this challenge can have a better idea than she did about what they are going to experience.

When I decided to join the Great Wall Discovery Challenge earlier this year, I thought I had a good idea what I was in for. I expected to challenge myself physically walking on the uneven steps of the wall for five days straight. I knew I’d meet incredible people who would inspire me. The encounters with squat toilets were also (unfortunately) not a surprise.

However, there was so much more to the challenge than I ever could have expected. It turned out the unexpected was what made the Great Wall Discovery Challenge such a magical experience.

Continue Reading…

Great Wall Trek with Charity Challenge

September 30, 2019

Charity Challenge invited photographer and blogger, Philipp Ammon, to join the Great Wall Discovery Challenge. He was blown away by the experience it provided. Especially getting to know the incredible other people on the Great Wall trek, who’d signed up to make a difference.

Great Wall Discovery with Charity Challenge

I’m truly at my happiest when I’m outside, exploring the world for all it has to offer. For me, nothing beats the challenge of an open trail, the sights of mountains, lakes oceans and rivers. I love learning about cultures and their customs all while being immersed in the very environment that has had such an impact in shaping them. It makes me feel more connected to humankind and this planet. It’s what inspires me to care more about those around me and our planet.

Continue Reading…

Top Packing Tips for the Sahara Desert Trek

August 7, 2019

You may envisage yourself trekking the Sahara Desert in shorts, t-shirts and sunglasses (and there definitely is some of this!). But we spoke to a group of recent participants and their packing tips for the Sahara Desert Trek contained a few unexpected items.

Make sure you’re ready for your Sahara Desert Challenge by following these recommended packing tips.

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