Add Centred Outdoors to Your Child's or Teen's Summer Routine

May 16, 2023
4 min read
Shannon Manley, PhD


Shannon Manley, PhD


Given data suggesting that youth mental health continues to decline (such as the recently published results of the CDC’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey), parents and community leaders are working to identify ways that can improve children’s and teens’ well-being. Hiking is one accessible activity that families in Central Pennsylvania can incorporate into their summer plans to promote mental and physical well-being. Hiking may benefit mental health by increasing kids’ physical activity and resilience, as well as exposing them to sunlight and green spaces.

Children and teens are recommended to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Physical activity is important for a variety of reasons, such as strengthening bones and muscles, regulating blood sugar levels, and maintaining heart and lung health. Exercise is also important for brain health. It has been shown to lower the risk of depression for young people, as well as reduce stress, boost self-esteem and concentration, and improve sleep. Hiking is an example of an aerobic exercise that can help kids (and adults) meet their movement needs.

Resilience is the ability to overcome and adapt to significant hardship. Setting and accomplishing goals, mastering skills, and finding purpose are all important components of resilience-building. They are important components of hiking, too! Being out on the trail requires physical and mental endurance, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. Hiking can also foster awe and appreciation for the natural world, leading to increased feelings of gratitude and a sense of purpose. In addition, learning new skills and overcoming challenges can boost self-esteem and confidence.

Hiking allows youth to get outside and explore their natural surroundings. Exposure to natural sunlight regulates children’s body clocks (also called their circadian rhythm). This helps to make them feel alert and awake during the day and sleepy at night, leading to improved sleep and mental well-being. Getting so-called “green time” out in nature has also been associated with reduced anger and stress, as well as increased attention, mindfulness, and happiness.

Getting started with hiking has never been easier. Centred Outdoors offers a variety of guided hikes suitable for all skill levels at beautiful locations throughout our region. These hikes are a great way to meet your neighbors and get comfortable with shorter hikes in a group setting.

Connecting with others through group hiking opportunities – like those offered through Centred Outdoors – has added mental health benefits. High levels of loneliness have been linked to a number of poor physical and mental health outcomes, including high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and substance use problems. In contrast, meaningful socialization and the development of a social support network are related to reduced stress and depression, as well as increased resilience.

About The Author

Shannon Manley, PhD
Pediatric Psychologist

Shannon Manley, PhD, has joined Mount Nittany Physician Group Pediatrics as a Pediatric Psychologist.

“Mount Nittany Physician Group is one of the largest pediatric health care providers in Centre County and partnering with them provides me a great opportunity to provide therapy and psychological testing services to many children and families who would otherwise have difficulty obtaining these services,” said Dr. Manley.

Mount Nittany Health identified the need for behavioral health services as a priority in its 2019 Community Needs Health Assessment.

“My professional interest in improving access to mental healthcare for families in underserved communities aligns well with Mount Nittany Health’s priorities,” said Dr. Manley.

Dr. Manley holds a Bachelor of Science (magna cum laude) in psychology from Juniata College and a Master of Arts and PhD from the University of Toledo in clinical psychology.

“I am a strong advocate for evidence-based practice. This approach to behavioral healthcare involves using treatments that have been found through research to be effective and tailoring them to the needs and context of each individual child,” said Dr. Manley. “I incorporate this by teaming up with kids and families and acknowledging that everyone on the team has expertise that they bring to the table. I know about science-backed techniques and skills, and kids and parents are experts on themselves: their values, strengths, needs, and circumstances. Together, we can come up with a treatment plan that works for them.”

The pediatric behavioral health services offered by Mount Nittany Physician Group include therapy, testing, and crisis evaluation. Therapy is offered for established Mount Nittany Physician Group primary care patients up to 18 years old. First, a diagnosis and treatment plan are developed through an initial intake evaluation. Then therapy appointments are scheduled. A variety of treatment protocols can be used during these appointments to address each family’s goals. Some concerns that can be addressed in therapy include anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior, posttraumatic stress, identity issues, and self-harm.

Testing is done when a child has behavioral or emotional problems that do not have a clear cause. Psychological assessment tools are used to reach a diagnosis and to inform treatment. Examples of issues that can be evaluated with psychological testing include attention difficulty, impulsive behavior, social skills deficits, difficulty regulating emotions, and learning difficulty.

“There is still a stigma in our society surrounding mental health services, and the courage, drive, and strength demonstrated by my patients and their families to overcome this fuels me to show up for work every day and provide them with the quality care and support they deserve,” said Shannon.

Dr. Manley is devoted to including accessibility, evidence-based care, and prevention in her professional practice.

“I especially love working with kids and teens because it provides an opportunity for early intervention and prevention of serious impairment later in life,” said Dr. Manley

Dr. Manley loves animals, the outdoors, and her family. She has two dogs, a guinea pig, and lots of plants. She is an avid gardener, true crime podcast listener, and “Bachelorette” fan. Her husband is a physician at Mount Nittany Physician Group.

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