Geocaching Your Way to Good Health
By Sara Butler
Before the Pokémon Go craze swept across America, if people wanted to scramble across the countryside to hunt down hidden objects, they did it the old-fashioned way through something called geocaching. This game of hide-and-seek goes back to the time before camera phones, back to the Bill Clinton era when the 42nd president declassified this cool technology called GPS.
This year International Geocaching Day is August 20, so we here at The Joint Chiropractic want to pay homage to the original “gotta catch em’ all” game and discuss the benefits of geocaching for your physical and mental health!
What is Geocaching?
Geocaching (pronounced JEE-oh-cash-ing) is a recreational activity loved by both techno-geeks and the outdoor enthusiasts among us. It combines the best of both worlds since you utilize GPS technology to find hidden objects left by others in some pretty spectacular places. There are geocaches located at the International Space Station (though getting there may be out of your budget), the summit of Mount Everest, The Leap in Arizona, and even in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a place called The Secret Falls of Kimbuma (how very Indiana Jones). Don’t worry, there are thousands of more easily found caches near you, but it just goes to show geocaching goes beyond what’s in your own backyard. It’s 21st century treasure hunting that doesn’t require an eye patch or a peg leg. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!
To play, you find a specific set of GPS coordinates to discover the buried treasure left at that location. It’s free, it’s easy and once you really get into it, it’s fun for the entire family. When you find a cache, just leave something of equal value in its place for the next geocacher to find, then record your find on the geocache app or website as well as the logbook in the cache. To get started, you just need your indomitable will and a smartphone with GPS. Easy peasy.
Caches are also rated for difficulty (hello, Mount Everest!), so while you’re getting the hang of it, go for the easy cache and then challenge yourself later with more difficult ones. It’s fun to get your entire family involved in these little adventures because you can do it together and it’s a great form of exercise that doesn’t even feel like exercise! And unlike Pokémon Go, you’re unlikely to walk into traffic while looking at your smartphone or suffer the effects of text neck.
Beyond the Treasure
Texas A&M completed a study in 2014 of 1,000 geocachers to see how geocaching can impact mental, as well as physical, health. What they found is not very surprising -- a solid association between improved health and geocaching.
Participants who geocached once a week or more met the guidelines set by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for physical activity. They also considered their own health to be good or very good on surveys, something people who geocached less than once a week did not report. The research also found geocachers reported fewer days of poor mental and physical health than the general public.
Some more results from the study found geocachers:
- Walked an average of 1.5 miles on each treasure hunt.
- Walked about 10 miles per month, on average.
- Reported an average of 134 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
How You Can Get Healthy Through Geocaching
Geocaching can be a great way to get out in order to begin getting some physical activity every week, or it can be a great thing to throw into your workout mix to keep it interesting. If you want to use geocaching as a way to get fit, you should:
- Aim to go geocaching at least once a week (or more) for a total of 2.5 hours.
- Work to improve your diet when you’re not geocaching by adding fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Stay hydrated by taking a bottle of water with you on your geocaching adventures.
Getting active is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health and wellness -- other than receiving routine chiropractic of course So, next time you and the family are looking for a fun (and healthy) activity, why not try a little geocaching?
And if it takes you to the summit of Everest, so be it.