Health Agenda

Mental Health

The health benefits of spending time outdoors when you travel

Keeping up with regular exercise, even when you’re on holiday, has great benefits for your physical and mental health. These outdoor adventures appeal to adults and kids alike.

If your annual break usually involves lounging around a pool with a cocktail in one hand and book in the other, consider stepping out of your comfort zone with an outdoor adventure instead. Whether you’re a solo traveller, holidaying with a partner, getting fit in your senior years, or heading on holiday with the kids, there’s a huge range of activities to choose from to shake up your travel experience.

The excitement of trying something new and the thrill of achieving a bucket-list goal, like summiting a mountain or swimming with wild dolphins, are just some of the more obvious reasons to go for it, but your health will also benefit from the physical activity.

SPEND TIME IN NATURE WITH YOUR PARTNER

Hannah Eaton is the founder of Sequoia Immersions, a couples counselling service in Seattle, USA that combines therapy with wilderness retreats. She swears by adventures in the wild as a way to connect with your partner and deal with conflict together.

Even if you don’t feel the need for wilderness therapy, Hannah recommends couples take a day trip together at least once a month, whether it’s biking, hiking or kayaking.

SET A BIG ADVENTURE GOAL

Di Westaway is CEO of Wild Women On Top, an organisation that offers thrill-seeking adventures and trains women for hiking holidays. She says setting a goal is a huge motivator.

“When your alarm goes off and you just want to hit the snooze button, think about the next adventure or challenge you’re training for,” she says. “Setting yourself a big, hairy, audacious goal to work towards will keep you motivated.”

TRY SOME OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES WITH YOUR KIDS

Fitness trainer Joe Bonington is very passionate about families getting out into the fresh air. He runs Joe’s Basecamp, a fitness centre that helps people train for adventures such as trekking to Everest Base Camp, but is also passionate about inspiring people.

As the father of two girls, Joe loves getting into the bush with his family. His girls love rock climbing and camping, and to prepare for adventures they run together.

“I’ve always encouraged my daughters to face fears in a calculated way,” he explains. “What’s the upside, what’s the downside, what level of discomfort can they handle – as opposed to a ‘not thinking, just do it’ way.”

Dr Kristy Goodwin, a digital health and wellbeing expert, says filling children’s lives with outdoor adventures helps to limit screen time. “Rather than banning screens, introduce organised sports or schedule time for walks,” she says. 

Planning active holidays with your family has many other benefits, including creating memories and a chance to bond, allowing kids to roam free, learn new skills and take risks to test their limits and face their fears.

WHERE'S YOUR NEXT OUTDOOR ADVENTURE?

  1. Kangaroo Valley, NSW
    Enjoy amazing scenery and spot wildlife while kayaking or canoeing in Kangaroo Valley. Operators offer two-hour to five-day trips.
    Best for: couples, groups and families.
    Try: Kangaroo Valley Safaris offers self-guided safari trips.
  2. Uluru, NT
    Visiting the Red Centre is a must-do for any bucket list, and the best way to explore beautiful Uluru is to walk or cycle around the base. It takes about three hours and children can ride in a carrier on the back, or pedal/sit it out on a tag-along tandem.
    Best for: singles, couples, groups, families.
    Try: Outback Cycling
  3. The Flinders Ranges, SA
    The Flinders Ranges, in outback South Australia, is the state’s largest mountain range with dramatic landscapes. Walks range from family-friendly 4km trails to more challenging, steeper hikes.
    Best for: singles, couples, groups, families.
    Try: Ikara Safari Camp offers bush camping or glamping.
  4. The Overland Track, TAS
    The Overland Track takes about six days to complete. It’s suited to experienced walkers with a good level of fitness.
    Best for: singles, couples, groups.
    Try: World Expeditions offers a guided Overland Track experience.
  5. El Questro in the Kimberley, WA
    Situated in Western Australia’s East Kimberley region, El Questro is a stunning spot to explore. There’s a wide range of hikes, swimming holes and thermal springs, fishing locations and amazing flora and fauna.
    Best for: singles, couples, groups, families.
    Try: El Questro.
  6. The Twelve Apostles Walk, VIC
    Explore this iconic coastline, which is a 55km walk tackled as a three-day, self-guided option for experienced walkers, or you can go with a group and do it over a longer period.
    Best for: singles, couples, groups, families with older children.
    Try: The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk includes luxury accommodation and meals.

Words by Nicola Conville
First published in Health Agenda Magazine in November 2019

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