Geocaching for Health
If you’ve never heard of geocaching, or geocaching for health, here’s a quick rundown: Anyone can hide a container (called a “cache”) somewhere where they can keep an eye on it, then register the GPS coordinates online. The rest of us then use GPS devices or smartphone apps to go in search of these hidden items, which range from tiny “micro-caches” the size of a button to plastic tubs tucked into fake rocks and hollow tree stumps. Caches are located everywhere—suburban parking lots, city parks, popular tourist sites, remote hiking trails and even (with permission) at hotels, libraries and restaurants—and are ranked based on difficulty of terrain and how hard they are to find.
Started in 2000, geocaching has grown into a hobby practiced by over 6 million people in 185 countries, from Antarctica and U.S. bases in Afghanistan to underwater and even in space stations (thanks to an astronaut fan).
The caches typically contain a logbook where successful seekers leave their initials, as well as trinkets like plastic toys, beads or coins. The unofficial geocaching motto is, “If you take something, leave something”—making the point less about what you find than the journey it takes to get there. The goal is to get people to explore new areas, be it a natural setting or even parts of their own cities, so environmental awareness is also a major component. Participants are urged to pick up trash along hiking trails, report any issues to park rangers and generally care for their surroundings.
According to the makers of the most popular geocaching app and website, geocaching.com, the activity is a hit with a wide array of users, from parents who love it as a way to get kids active, to flight crews using it to explore a layover city, to veterans using it as a way to deal with PTSD. According to health experts, it’s also a great fitness tool. At last year’s American Public Health Association conference in Boston, health science researchers from Texas A&M University released the initial findings of their Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) study, which began in 2013: “The GEAR study has identified an association between geocaching and improved health,” revealed researcher Whitney Garney, M.P.H., further explaining that the activity has proven to engage participants both physically and mentally.
Garney went on to explain that study participants who reported geocaching once a week or more were “more likely to meet national guidelines for physical activity, and more likely to report a ‘good’ or ‘very good health’ status compared to those who geocache less frequently.” The findings also showed that “frequent geocachers (defined as geocaching one time or more/week) were more likely to meet U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for physical activity than a non-frequent geocacher”—making this both a fun and impactful activity for people of all fitness levels. And you don’t even have to put down your smartphone. geocaching.com
Work Out with the Sports Pros
The Four Seasons takes fitness seriously, and their latest move proves it. Guests who sign up for a Four Seasons sports clinic now get to play with the pros. At Four Seasons Hotel Houston, you can shoot hoops one-on-one with Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. At Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Olympic Volleyball Gold Medalist Todd Rogers, a Santa Barbara native, will help hone your beach volleyball skills. And at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston, an Olympic rowing champion will take you out on the Charles River for a two-hour row and show you how it’s done. fourseasons.com