A Fun, Adventurous Way To Add Steps To Your Days
It’s an adventurous physical and mental activity we can enjoy alone, with the kids, or grandkids, and though it adds many steps to our day seems more like fun than exercise.
Geocaching is essentially a treasure hunt that involves locating hidden caches (objects or containers) by following a set of GPS coordinates. This activity, started 16 years ago, is now a hobby enjoyed by individuals and families in 185 countries. The intention behind geocaching is getting people to explore cities or natural settings, and to increase environmental awareness.
Caches and Contents
Anyone, living anywhere, can hide items and register the location's GPS coordinates on a geocache website. Searchers then use their GPS devices or smartphone apps to locate the stashed cache—which could be in a hollow log off a forest trail, or behind stacks of dusty books in a library. Each cache is ranked according to how difficult it is to locate, and the terrain that must be traversed to find it.
Many caches are plastic containers that typically hold a logbook - where intrepid hunters can leave their initials - and sometimes trinkets for trade, such as beads, plastic toys, or coins. Those who take something from a cache are expected to leave something of equal or greater value.
Some caches also contain small trackable items that people can take if they subsequently log the item’s code on the geocache website, and then put the trackable object into another geocache within a couple of weeks. This ensures the trackable item keeps moving to different locations.
Though not designed to be a fitness tool, research by Texas A&M University shows that regular geocaching provides measurable health benefits. Their Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) study established a correlation between regular geocaching and better health. The researchers reported:
- Participants who went geocaching once per week or oftener were more likely to meet national physical activity guidelines, and more often reported having a “good” or “very good” health status when compared to less frequent geocachers.
- Frequent geocachers (one or more times per week) more often met CDC* physical activity recommendations than non-frequent geocachers.
Geocaching and Diabetes
While the GEAR research makes it obvious geocaching is not a substitute for regular aerobic exercise, it does suggest geocaching contributes to an active lifestyle and overall fitness—so important for individuals managing diabetes.
Beside all the walking involved, getting out and about can relieve glucose-elevating stress, and help diminish the anxiety or depression that sometimes accompanies a diabetes diagnosis. Plus, whether exploring urban or natural areas, diabetes supplies can easily be carried in backpack, and geocachers are free to stop as needed for monitoring and adjustments.
To participate in geocaching and reap its benefits, you first need to set up a user account on a geocaching website, such as geocaching.com. Once the account is established you can search for geocaches in your area, log the caches and trackable items you find, or have fun hiding and publishing your own hidden treasure.
*U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention