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Geocaching is Good Exercise for Tech-Savvy Teens

by Matrix Admin | Aug 01, 2011
Teenagers not meeting exercise guidelines should try outdoor treasure hunt, study says

DENVER – Geocaching – a technology trend that has taken hold in more than 100 countries worldwide – may be more than just fun, according to research being presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 58th Annual Meeting and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine®. Geocaching may be a creative way to encourage tech-savvy teenagers to get outside and exercise.

Geocaching – often described as an active, outdoor treasure hunt – uses GPS devices to locate hidden containers, called caches, by their coordinates and written clues. Caches come in all shapes and sizes and generally contain a logbook for visitors to sign and/or an assortment of small items for visitors to take. There are several online communities, such as www.geocaching.com, for geocaching enthusiasts.

A research team with Appalachian State University surveyed 56 teenagers, ages 13 to 17. On a scale of one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree), students rated their enjoyment of exercise, technology and being outdoors, in addition to whether or not they think geocaching would be fun. Students said they enjoy physical activity and technology, and they prefer to be active outside. Students also thought geocaching sounded fun and would be more enjoyable than walking.

“Considering the high levels of interest in being active outside and in using technology, it seems like geocaching could be the perfect activity to keep young, tech-savvy people active,” said Rebecca Battista, Ph.D., lead author of this study.

Researchers also recorded screen time (spent in front of a television or computer) and physical activity for each student. Most students did not meet minimum physical activity guidelines, as 69.6 percent were physically active less than five days per week and 57.1 percent were active less than three days per week. In contrast, students spent more than ten hours per week, on average, playing video games, using the computer or watching television.

“Overall, our results suggest that rural youth are not getting the daily physical activity they need to be healthy and fit,” said Battista, who is an associate professor at Appalachian State University. “It seems technology – like the television and computer – is distracting our teenagers and keeping them sedentary. Geocaching is a good way to appeal to a child’s love of technology and need to be active at the same time.”

A study released in 2010 by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that U.S. youth ages eight to 18 spend an average of seven hours, 38 minutes each day using entertainment media such as a television and computer. ACSM and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents participate in at least one hour of physical activity each day.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine. Research highlighted in this news release has been presented at a professional meeting but has not been peer-reviewed.

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