ACTIVITIES - EARTH
Varied terrain, provides opportunities for hiking, trail running, mountain biking and horse-riding whilst archery and bushcraft offer the chance for something unique, with a lesser requirement for mobility, overall.
Mountain Biking and Cycling
Aside from the obvious physical health benefits of cycling, there is also the emotive benefit of peddling a bike along a forest trail or across open moorland. The sense of independence and discovering new places by bike provides a level of accomplishment that should not be under-estimated. Studies have shown that there is a clear connection between cycling and cognitive behaviours and in the mental health benefits for both children and adults.
Cycling also provides a great way for families to spend time together in the outdoors and if it proves difficult or is not possible to ride a mainstream mountain bike, there are several options available, including trikes and four-wheeled bikes to help with stability (i.e. recumbent cycles), which may alleviate any concerns that you have over mobility and your ability to take part.
An opportunity for relaxation and quiet, surrounded by nature, engaging the senses and an chance to experience the outdoors even in less favourable weather conditions, provided it is safe to do so.
Feeling very much alive - a hike can leave us feeling refreshingly fatigued, and yet somehow better equipped to handle “civilisation”. And the sense of accomplishment is gratifying enough to improve our perception on all things in life.
Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health. In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers measured oxidative stress. The study found that long distance hiking trips may improve the antioxidative capacity, which helps fight off disease, in the blood of oncological patients.
A study by the University of Stirling on a sample of 341 patients showed a brisk walk was “an effective intervention for depression" and had a similar effect to other, more vigorous forms of exercise.
The benefits of physical exercise in general on treating mental health are well documented. According to one study, physical activity can even be as effective as medication in treating depression.
If accessibility proves difficult, there are specialist mobility aids available which can be used off-road on a variety of trails with a guide, family, friends or carers.
From a physical aspect, it is a great way to help posture, balance and coordination. Taught by a riding instructor, equine-assisted therapy and the requirement to control the horse also helps the rider to focus and have emotional control - there is no room to be angry and frustrations can soon be dispersed through patience, forgiveness - and trust. As a form of therapy then, it is particularly good for people who may struggle to express themselves due to their condition and there is the sense of accomplishment which can help the rider to feel more confident in their abilities.
It is an excellent form of therapy for the non-disabled and for those with a physical disability, using specialist tactile equipment if required. It can be practiced by a wide age range and individually or as part of a group, where there can be the added excitement of competing against each other; in turn this can boost-confidence and the sense of achievement - or the ability to understand and accept loss. Archery improves coordination, breathing techniques and focus through measurable results and this also has the advantage of being beneficial in day-to-day life.
Archery can help to strengthen muscles and tendons, through the tension of drawing the bow, holding the position and releasing the string to fire an arrow. Done repetitively, this can lead to the development of many of the major muscle groups in the upper body - the core, arms, chest and shoulders all benefitting, in a similar way to lifting weights.
Experience the thrill of catching your first wave as the surf rolls in across a sandy shore. The excitement of exploring by kayak or traversing the coast by swimming, climbing and jumping from the rocks. Sea, river or lake, water provides a fantastic opportunity to discover the adventurer within.
Dramatic cliffs rising from the sea, the expanse of Dartmoor and its granite tors or the security of an indoor climbing wall, protected from the elements. Be gripped by the adrenaline rush of your first abseil, scaling a rockface or the satisfaction of completing your first hurdle, indoors.