Get your gear off… just don’t get caught!

By Di Westaway | CEO Wild Women On Top

When I learned that a bunch of Pommy tourists had been jailed for streaking around Mt Kinabalu, I laughed. 

It’s very cold and often very wet up there. 

Since I’ve done a bit of nudie frolicking in wilderness locations including the odd mountain summit, I was curious to learn more. 

On a side note: I don’t do it publicly. In fact, I always go to great lengths to ensure that my naked moments, most of which are underwater, are private; and particularly that they won’t be seen by indigenous locals! 

But then I read this response from ‘The Globe and Mail’ columnist, Doug Saunders, and I wasn’t laughing anymore. 

Saunders said, “mountain climbing is the height of empty egotism and self-gratification” He goes on: “In a century of climbing, nobody has been able to come up with a sensible reason to be doing it.”

Leaping into the debate came Australian mountaineer, Chris Bourke, who’s climbed Everest and K2. Chris gives a passionate defense of her reasons for climbing mountains which includes living outside your comfort zone and learning to manage fear. 

Chris says other reasons for climbing mountains include learning perseverance, endurance, courage, trust, honesty, commitment, resilience, independence, teamwork and the ability to adapt to change.

But, there’s a whole other reason for us to take on extreme challenges in the wild. 

It keeps us healthy!

Research shows that just being in nature improves health in many ways; and we’ve known for decades that physical activity keeps us healthy. When you add nature to your exercise, you get an avalanche of health benefits. 

The health benefits of physical activity in nature our now supported by a whole meta-analysis of research. The 2014 World Parks Congress cited the Healthy Parks Healthy People approach as the cornerstone of the next decade of development in parks. 

The mountains are nature’s gym; our garden of health. They provide everything we need to strengthen and tone the body, as well as firing up our cardiovascular system and sending our happy hormones off the chart. 

Functional body movement in nature gets us fit, improves mental health and reduces depression.  When combined with a healthy diet, physical activity in the mountains has the potential to prevent and cure global lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  

Studies show that not only does walking in nature improve physical wellbeing and fitness, it also reduces depression and improves mood. The Japanese are onto this with their research into forest bathing, which has been shown to have significant health benefits caused by the release of mood enhancing chemicals. 

What Saunders fails to realise is that the process of climbing a mountain, the planning, training, and committing to a challenging goal in the wilderness, and then the experience of achieving the goal, takes you on a transformational journey.

This journey is fundamentally one of health & fitness, both mental and physical. 

Here’s why. 

1.When you have a big goal wilderness adventure goal in your sights, you’re highly motivated to get really fit, healthy and strong. 

2.Your big goal motivates you to do a training activity, like carrying a heavy backpack up hills, stairs and soft sand in all weather, which is often hard, unappealing and tough. Doing this regularly to prepare for your goal creates sustained behavioral change.

3.On your journey, you are part of a team; all committed to the same goal, pitted against nature, in the elements, working together. You become part of a community of health, united in your mission. 

4.When you step out of your comfort zone, magic happens. This enriches your life and brings happiness on a grand scale.

As Chris Bourke says, these lessons are then transferred to life at home. They help us manage the emotional and mental challenges of everyday life with a fresh confidence and strength to take on any challenge. 

So, Mr Saunders, improving physical and mental health and transforming lives is a powerful reason for doing it. 

And, if you want to step outside your comfort zone to where the magic happens, get your gear off & jump into a freezing mountain stream. You’ll experience the exhilaration of one of life’s great simple pleasures. Just make sure you don’t get caught! 

Come and meet Di Westaway and learn more about the benefits of exercising in nature at our Wild Adventure Workshop! 

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