“Go outside and play!” How many times did we hear that as kids? It seems our parents were definitely on to something, as the health benefits of being outdoors are varied and wide-reaching. But being close to nature is not the only thing that geocaching has going for it, with going to events and solving puzzles also having great rewards.
I had a look at what some experts had to say about various activities that are part of geocaching and I made a list of 8 ways geocachers benefit from their hobby.
1. Boosts Immunity
Since 2004, the Japanese government has invested millions of dollars researching shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing. The idea is to reap the health benefits of being close to nature and walking through a forest. Researchers brought middle-aged business men in to the forest outside Tokyo for twice daily hikes over a period of three days and found that the activity levels of ‘natural killer’ cells (NK cells) increased by 56% after day two. NK activity were used as, “an indicator of immune function, particularly as an indicator of anticancer activity.”
So the next time someone looks at you funny for saying you’re going geocaching, just tell them you’re practicing the Japanese therapy of shinrin-yoku instead 😉
2. Relieves Stress
The research team also measured levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the subject’s saliva and found the levels significantly lower in the forest environment. Even proximity to green spaces in more urban areas can result in lower stress levels, meaning just a walk in a local park to pick up some caches can help you relax.
3. Taps in to your Creativity
Psychologists at the University of Utah and the University of Kansas found that being in touch with nature made subjects scores on a creativity test soar. No wonder then, that there are so many creative caches out there!
4. Improves Memory
Doing a variety of puzzles can be very beneficial to your mental health. A US Study of older priests and nuns found that subjects who undertook diverse cognitive activities, including reading a newspaper and doing puzzles were 47% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Boosts Mental Health
A 2010 study funded by the National Institutes of Heatlh in the US measured various factors including diet, supplements and exercise and found that cognitive training was most closely linked to a decreased risk of mental decline. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere with puzzle caches, at least you’re giving your brain a workout trying to solve them! Every cloud 😉
6. Gets You Moving
I don’t need to refer to any studies on the health advantages of exercising; the benefits are well known and plentiful. If you need extra motivation to get outside and get moving (and I know I do!), just make a geocache your reward at the end and you’ll be in better shape before you know it, reaping the rewards including reduced risk of heart disease and strengthening of bones and muscles.
7. Promotes Eustress
Eustress is a type of ‘positive’ stress that you get when you do something you find fun, like riding a roller coaster or driving a go-kart. Assuming that you go geocaching because it makes you happy, then chances are the thrill of making the find is releasing eustress, which is really important to stay mentally happy.
8. Reduces Symptoms of Depression
Researchers at University College Dublin found that “going out for coffee or chatting to a friend can reduce the symptoms of depression.” Just in case you needed another excuse to attend that geocaching event!
I recently read this article about Mark, who found that geocaching helped him through depression. Given the benefits to mind and body listed above, it’s little wonder Mark attributes geocaching to keeping him “fit and grounded.”
The next time someone asks you ‘what’s the point?’, be sure to tell them all about the benefits of our awesome hobby. Is there such thing as a healthy obsession? I think geocaching proves that there is!
How has geocaching benefited your life? Let me know in the comments!
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