One of the hardest parts of about having young kids is balancing their needs for your time, attention and affection against finding time to stay fit and healthy. Many people choose to deal with this challenge my taking them along to the gym, and putting them in childcare while they do their workout. Though it can yield a welcome break, finding ways to include them in your fitness activities not only builds their interest in health and fitness, but strengthens your shared bond as well. With that thought in mind, consider geocaching as a kid-friendly activity to promote fitness and health.
Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game, whereby participants seek out hidden items using their gps-enabled devices. The game meets at the confluence of widespread internet access, ready availibility of handheld gps-enabled devices, and the U.S. government’s decision to allow public access to the global positioning system satellites. Participants seek out “caches” hidden all over the world, and share their experiences via online discussions. Over the last several years, geocaching has become a global phenomenon, with millions of participants worldwide.One of the great things about geocaching is its ability to catch the imagination of both kids and adults alike. While caches can consist of almost anything, most include a paper for seekers to sign, which my kids find fascinating. The idea that someone from the other side of the world sought out and found a cache they could be holding captivates their imagination. The only major “rule” of geocaching is that once found, caches should be returned to their location for the next seeker.From a fitness perspective, geocaching can include anything from light walks to far-flung hikes. Caches can be hidden anywhere, and online discussions include hints and difficulty ratings for nearly every cache. While many of our caching expeditions have consisted of a 10-15 minute walk from the car, hard-core caches may require backcountry hikes.Some may scoff at the idea that geocaching with children can provide a good workout, but don’t sell them short.Several years ago, we took a family vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. My youngest, who at the time was only 2 years old, is an asthmatic epileptic, but we spend time outdoors anyway. During our visit, the kids learned of a geocache at Laurel Falls. Despite being a moderately difficult 2.6-mile round trip hike, the kids were undaunted. The idea of seeing an 80-foot waterfall, coupled with finding a popular cache was more than enough to get them motivated, so we packed up some healthy snacks, laced up our hiking shoes, and set off. Naturally our youngest got tired during the hike, but when his little legs gave out, it carried him piggyback. The terrain isn’t terribly difficult, but grows more challenging with a kid riding on your back. But the sense of wonder they found at both seeing the beauty in Laurel Falls, and the achievement at finding the cache made it more than worth the effort. Unfortunately for me, on the return hike, he fell asleep while I was carrying him, which forced me to carry him as a dead-weight! That night, I slept like a baby.
Figuring out ways to develop kid-friendly workouts can be both a challenging, and somewhat daunting task. But, with a little creativity it’s possible to not only include them, but let them actively participate in a lifestyle of health and fitness. Geocaching allows the entire family to reap the rewards of physical activity, provides another avenue to get kids interested in being outdoors, and promotes the family bonding that comes with a shared activity
Bio: Greg Hayes is the author of Live Fit Blog, where he writes about fitting fitness into busy lives. To learn more about how to lose belly fat and build functional strength, check it out!