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New Texas A&M Study: Geocaching Improves Physical and Mental Health

GEAR study

1,000 geocachers volunteered to be part of the first ever major study of geocaching and its effect on health. The 14-month Texas A&M study called Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR) launched in January of 2013. The first set of results from the study were presented on November 5 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Boston.

Each of the participants were given devices to track their movement and a logbook to record their level of geocaching intensity. The first results showed the effects of regular geocaching. Researcher Whitney says, “The GEAR study has identified an association between geocaching and improved health.”

Another researcher, Garney, goes on to say, “GEAR participants who report geocaching once a week or more are more likely to meet national guidelines for physical activity and are more likely to report good or very good health status compared to those who geocache less frequently.” In addition, research showed that geocachers reported fewer days of poor physical and mental health compared to state level data.

Follow Geocaching on Instagram for more epic and inspirational geocaching pics http://instagram.com/gogeocaching
Follow Geocaching on Instagram for more epic and inspirational geocaching pics http://instagram.com/gogeocaching

These findings are still preliminary, but nevertheless we’re excited about them. The study concludes in early 2014 and final data will be analyzed and presented later that year.

The health benefits of geocaching are often the subject of emails to Geocaching HQ. Have you lost weight geocaching or sharpened your mental skills? Share your stories about improving your health through geocaching in the comments below.

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Flood Tested – Geocacher Approved: Lost Cache Found Years Later 30 Miles Downstream

Geocache found after 3 years after washing away in a flood
Geocache found after 3 years after washing away in a flood

Isn’t a wet logbook the worst? Or maybe a geocache filled with water is the worst? Or a geocache that isn’t well-marked might be the worst? Or  maybe even a geocache that can’t be found because it’s washed away by a flood is actually, really, the worst. Well then Sandra, aka junglehair‘s, geocache is the antidote to all those “worsts.”

She’s found more than 13,000 geocaches and hidden more than 70. She knows her geocaching stuff. Sandra’s knowledge includes using the right container for the right circumstances. They’re containers that are durable and last years. She says those containers are most importantly water-tight. None of that seemed to matter much though when a spring flood washed through Manitoba, Canada in 2010. Even though her geocache named Splashing New York Style was hidden high on the bank of a river, it was swept away.  After a string of DNF (Did Not Find) logs, she replaced the geocache container.

Lost & Found
Lost & Found

Then the years rolled by, until an email popped into Sandra’s inbox. She says, “I found out that one of my caches that was washed away in a spring flood in 2010, was found on an island about 60 km North of where it was originally hidden.” The story goes, “The cache was found by Rob Bruce, Marsh Manager at Oak Hammock Marsh while he was on a hunting trip in Netley Marsh. He had been camping on the island where the cache was found.”

Sandra says the geocache survived those three years intact and water tight. It was well marked so Rob knew the container was a geocache and he also knew how to contact the geocache owner. The geocache just bobbed along for years before finding a resting place on an Island on the south end of Lake Winnipeg.

Sandra says, “The really amazing part of this story is that the log book and other contents of this cache were still fairly dry inside! It was hidden in a Lock & Lock container (the real kind, not a dollar store knock off).”

It’s a Lost & Found lesson about quality, well-marked, water-tight containers. It’s also a lesson about luck. It helped that it ended up in the hands of a friend who geocaches, a lot. OHMIC returned the geocache, but he happens to mostly find them with more than 15,000 finds.

What are your tips, advice, techniques, tools… well you get it…  for placing a durable, water-tight, well-marked geocache?

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Tips on Geocache Hints

WeeklyMailer_10282013_WritingBetterHints_vFINAL_Blog

 

Sometimes geocaching hints create a confusing chorus that doesn’t lead anyone closer to the actual geocache. “Hints” like, “It’s in the obvious place” or “Yes, it’s really there” or “You don’t really need a hint” lead to a little confusion and a lot of shoulder shrugging. The hint shouldn’t spoil the exact location of the geocache, but be should be used as a good clue as to where it can be found. If you’re a geocache hider, consider a clue that would help someone who’s finding their first geocache step closer to the container.

The hint can still be clever and require geocachers to think about their surroundings. If you’re new to geocaching, or even a seasoned pro, sometimes the hint takes a little decoding. Here’s some help:

Tie Your Shoe = Bend down and look at a lower level
Attractive = Magnetic geocache
Troll = Under a bridge
SPOR/UPR = Suspicious Pile of Rocks/Unusual Pile of Rocks
Handyman Special = Magnetic bolt

 

Do you still have more questions about hints? We’ve got you covered. Another great destination to decipher and share your favorite hints is the Geocaching Facebook page.  Inspire a geocache owner, leave your favorite tips on hints below in comments!

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TattooBarbie Discovers Geocaching

eldorado
After attending Geocoinfest 2013: Las Vegas, Nevada, TattooBarbie and her friend cybercat completed the El Dorado series. They had so much fun they decided to also do the Route 66 series!

This is the story of a woman with Asperger’s, who became a geocacher with Asperger’s. It’s not about conquering a disorder or beating an affliction. It’s about something more. It’s about the most human of all conditions: adaptation. It’s a condition geocachers are known to excel at, and Toni Brown first discovered that at work.

In many ways, Toni (Username: TattooBarbie) is a geocacher like many others: adventurous, fun, and outgoing. But this has not always been the case.

Long before she discovered geocaching, Toni was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.  She says, “With Asperger Syndrome, it’s sort of a problem with your social life. You just don’t fit in. You don’t understand people and people don’t understand you. That has led me to have a rather secluded life.” Like many others with Asperger’s, Toni found it difficult to meet new friends and to get outside.

Then, one fateful work retreat, she found a way to do both. Toni works for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TPWD uses geocaching as an educational tool for its Outdoor Family Program, and so the department decided that it would be a good idea for TPWD employees to test out geocaching during its annual retreat. For Toni, this activity turned out to be more than fun – it turned her life upside down (sometimes literally).

“Geocaching changed my life…I finally fit in somewhere. I’ve even hosted events when I travel out of town just to meet other geocachers.  This activity is so much fun that no matter where you go you can meet perfect strangers and share a common bond.”  With nearly 10,000 finds and 200 hides, Toni now spends a lot of time outside exploring. Her geocaching dream is to travel to Brazil to find the last remaining Project APE geocache. She also would like to find the International Space Station geocache, but concedes that “Brazil is [more] doable.”

telephone pole
Toni climbs out of her comfort zone (and ours!).
tattootreasurechest
TattooBarbie’s trackable treasure chest tattoo.

Toni has been hooked on geocaching ever since that first experience at the TPWD retreat. Don’t believe us? Check out her rad trackable tattoo, featured in the video below. It’s in the shape of a treasure chest, which she thinks is the perfect representation of what geocaching is all about.

We think that Toni herself is the perfect representation of what geocaching is all about. She has used geocaching as a tool to step outside her comfort zone, to explore new places, and to surround herself with a wonderful community of folks united by their shared love of this crazy thing we call…well…geocaching.

Has geocaching helped you to overcome a challenge or step outside of your comfort zone? Tell us your story in the comments below.

Watch the video below (created by TPWD) to learn more about how geocaching helped Toni overcome the challenges associated with Asperger Syndrome: