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The life-altering sport of orienteering.

If you’re looking for an exercise that gives you almost all the most important brain, mental, and physical health benefits of exercise and in one cheap and sometimes even free package, you might want to look at something called orienteering.

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Orienteering is an outdoor sport that can help improve brain, mental, and physical health in more than a dozen different ways. Which is why it might just be one of the best all round exercises you can focus on.

In case you’re not familiar, orienteering is based on individuals or teams competing with each other to see who will be the quickest to reach the end of the course, usually a mountainous course, and using a map and a compass, and based on figuring out coordinates that you have to search for first.

Meaning when you start the race you’ll be given the coordinates of the first point to race to. Once you find those coordinates, you move on to the next and the next and so on.

It can be done competitively, walking or running, with small teams or large teams, and even as a professional sport. And although it traces back to ancient Mayan cultures, it started as an organized sport in Sweden around 1800 and in 1945 recognized as an official sport in Norway.

So Why Is It Considered So Healthy?

  • It requires you to think as you exercise – reading a map, understanding the terrain, figuring out what the coordinates mean, and figuring out the best way, the quickest way to get from one point to the next.
  • It’s usually a team sport and the very social one, which makes it great as an activity for family and friends.
  • It’s great aerobic and cardio exercise, hiking or running across mountains and streams and through woods and valleys.
  • It’s great physical exercise, and especially for your legs. Did I mention all the hiking?
  • You can do it at your own pace. There are plenty of orienteering competitions for beginners, even kids, and right up to professional levels.
  • It’s a fantastic stress reliever, it’s great fun, and it can trigger all the positive hormones in the brain.
  • It’s great for building self-confidence and self-esteem, and also for learning new skills.
  • It can teach you things like teamwork, leadership, goal-setting, decision-making under pressure, and motivation.
  • If you love it enough, you can even turn it into a career.
  • It creates a great balance between mind and body.
  • It’s great for building mental and physical resilience.
  • It’s a great opportunity to get out in nature and all the additional health benefits that can bring.
  • It’s a sport and activity that can take you around the world. But you won’t have to hike your way there.

Want to learn more about orienteering, get started, learn how? A great place to start is OrienteeringUSA, the United States Orienteering Federation.