A study conducted by the Center for Community Health Development reports that individuals who engage in geocaching regularly are more likely to discover better health alongside their hidden treasures. The Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) study reveals that combined with recreational walking, bike riding, or other activities, the search for caches promotes good physical fitness among players.
A representative for Geocaching.com explains geocaching as an outdoor activity in which, using a GPS guided app, players locate shrewdly disguised containers in over 2.4 million locations around the world. 1 million of those hides, according to the GEAR survey, are located in the United States. There are more than 6 million users with accounts at Groundspeak. Players use these accounts to manage lists of hides and finds, as well as to pinpoint the waymarkers for these caches in suburban areas, cities, national parks, and businesses. Essentially a worldwide scavenger hunt, geocaching is built on the premise that everywhere a person can go, there is something exciting to be found at or near that location.
Users who geocache spend, according to the survey, 2.25 hours a week walking or hiking. The Center for Disease Control recommends approximately 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) of moderately strenuous physical activity per week; participants in the GEAR survey engaged in roughly 134 minutes of activity caching per week. Study author Whitney Garney, M.P.H., says that geocaching is a fun option to get people up and outside, and points out that this is a great hobby for people who might not otherwise engage in regular aerobic activities to stay in shape.
The study goes on to suggest that caching is a good way for users in transition, either emotionally or physically, to rehabilitate themselves. This is the case for one geocacher, Eric McDonald from Pierce County, Washington. McDonald, who was required to take time off of work after an injury to his right foot required surgery, says that caching has kept his mind off of his pain as he walks and bikes to his finds. “It’s kept me motivated to stay active, even though being out of work can be hard when you’re used to being busy all day. Plus,” he adds, “it’s also a great way to get out and see things with my daughter.”
Study participants reported that the primary motivator for their involvement in the hobby was the benefit of physical activity. Geocaching is a low-impact aerobic activity, and, performed 2.5 hours a week with reasonable exertion can satisfy a player’s fitness needs. Discovering geocaching, for people with low mobility, poor emotional health or other challenges to physical activity, is a motivator to turn fitness into a scavenging adventure.
Public Relations Manager for Groundspeak, Eric Schudiske, explains that this outdoor adventure empowers users to discover new locations and explore them with friends. The survey, conducted in a partnership with Texas A&M Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) and Groundspeak, suggests that players who consider geocaching as an activity for physical fitness were on average 44 years old. However, caching appeals to users across a broad spectrum of age groups and ability levels. This activity appeals to children as well as adults. The iPhone and Android app developed by Groundspeak makes finding caches with smartphones an integral part of the experience for most recreational geocachers, and it also makes this activity extremely accessible. The free application, Schudiske says, “allows kids to still have that digital experience that they’re very used to, but also to drop away the four walls of the house. Geocaching gets kids outdoors, and challenges them, intellectually and creatively, to really channel the curiosity that they have naturally about the outdoors.”
Groundspeak has seen an upswing in registered accounts in 2014. This rise in prominence is attributed to social media, community betterment fostered by members of the caching community, and to growing investigations, like the GEAR study, about geocaching’s role in discovering better health.
By Mariah Beckman