7 Reasons that Rafting is Good for Your Health, and Economical Too!
1. Experiences Make Us Happier Than Possessions
In tough economic times, if you have some cash to spare, how do you choose to spend it to maximize happiness? Should you buy a material object, or spend it on an experience? Dr. Ryan Howell, Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, studied 154 people who made purchases - either material or experiential - and discovered that the purchase of experiences led to more happiness and satisfaction. This was true both at the time of purchase and afterwards (three months later). Dr. Howell believes that a sense of relatedness to others - getting closer to friends and family - generates more happiness than purchasing material things and helps explain this finding. As the ultimate team sport, rafting provides a great opportunity to maximize the beneficial effects of social bonding and, since it occurs in natural settings, takes advantage of five more reasons rafting supports mental and physical health. Read on!
2. The Experience of Nature Reduces Stress
Relax under the shade of an oak tree. Listen to the sound of the river rushing over the rocks and slapping against the banks of the campground. Uninterrupted, relaxing, the fresh air and peacefulness surrounding the river cannot be matched. Did you know that medical science has established that stress plays an important role in 80% of all illness? As you de-stress and connect with the sights and sounds of nature you boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, increase release of pleasure mediators such as endorphins and promote your physical health and mental health.
3. Exercise is Great for Health and Exercise in a Green Environment is Even Better!
Paddling through whitewater rapids is great exercise. If you feel especially adventurous, you can jump in a swimmer’s rapid or calm area (always ask you guide first) and swim upstream. Swimming is known to reduce obesity, increases muscle and cardiovascular strength, reduces stress and can be enjoyed by those of us with limb or joint problems that limit running or walking. No doubt you knew all this. What is surprising is that the setting in which exercise occurs is an important determinant of the health benefits of exercise. Subjects who exercised in a “green” environment surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature have greater reductions in blood pressure, higher elevations in HDL (the good cholesterol), and greater improvements in mood and self esteem than those who exercise the same amount in urban, non-green environments. Mitchell and Popham, Lancet, 372: pg. 1655-60. Bottom line, no amusement park ride will ever compare to the excitement and health benefits of a real life river experience. Additional bonus: You will fondly carry the memory of your river trip with you forever!
4. River Trips are Good for Your Brain. The City Hurts Your Brain.
Ever felt like your brain was on overload? Chances are you were in a crowded city or caught in traffic. Activities like river trips allow your brain to unwind from urban life and actually improve mental functioning. So says Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured cognitive deficits caused by urban environments. Marc says that the brain is a limited machine and “we are beginning to understand the different ways a city can exceed those limitations.” By contrast, even fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance. It is not surprising then that prolonged quality time in nature, such as a raft trip, can act like a kind of mental reset button. This doesn’t mean you need to move to Coloma, or give up the benefits of cities such as great music events. It does mean a river trip is a great way to help tune up your mental performance.
5. Children Benefit Greatly from River Trips, the Longer the Better.
Those of us who raft know what a thrill it is to watch our children whoop and holler through a whitewater rapid. Often timid at first, by the time you reach takeout the kids are virtually always asking, “where are the really big ones”, and then beg for more. Children these days are often more stressed than adults. This is due in part because they are highly empathic and mirror the emotions of their parents and other adults who are dealing with the stresses and strains of modern industrial society. Children, however, don’t have the mature coping mechanism we adults allegedly do. It is therefore good to know that researchers have found that children benefit from exposure to nature with a dose related reduction in their stress levels. The longer the exposure to nature, the lower the levels of stress in the child. Those of us who have experienced an extended raft trip on the Grand Canyon certainly know the feeling: What day is it anyway? Why not try a multiple day River Center experience, and by the way, leaving home your TV, computer and cell phone helps too. (NM Wells and GW Evans, Environment and Behavior, 35(3): 311-330.)
6. River Trips are Great for ADD and ADHD
Attention disorders have become one of the challenges of the current age. The percentage of children on Ritalin and other drugs used to treat ADD and ADHD (which is generally ADD in males) is truly astounding. Theories abound on the causes and appropriate treatment of these children, but recent evidence has found that one treatment improves the symptoms in virtually all cases. That treatment is exposure to nature. The data is so compelling that some have suggested that ADD and ADHD are actually “Nature Deficit Disorder” in disguise. If our children were to grow up in an environment more similar to the one in which their nervous system evolved, the problem might disappear. This may be hyperbole. Nevertheless, what is clear is that children diagnosed with attention issues have better functioning after activities in natural or “greener” settings. Furthermore, the greener the setting, the less severe the child’s attention disorder. (AF Taylor, FE Kuo and WC Sullivan. Environment and Behavior, 33 (1):54-77) Also Taylor and Kuo, Journal of Attention Disorders, August 2008.
7. It’s Economical
- Cardiac Bypass $10,500 if done in Canada. (at least 82.5% more if done in USA)
- Cruise Ship Vacations EUR 390 per day per person
- Dude Ranch Vacations EUR 200 per day per person
- Psychotherapy EUR 120 and up per hour
- Snowboarding Pass EUR 42, no lunch, no guide, no gear or instruction included.
- Mother Lode Whitewater Rafting and Canyoning Vacations EUR 39-140 per person with lunch, gear, guide, and instruction included.
Peace of mind and improvement in health: Priceless