Why I scared myself silly doing a handstand on a knife-edge in Peru

Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick | Wild Women On Top

Turns out you don’t have to dive with white pointers or ski naked off Mt Everest to get a thrill from adventure. Research shows just climbing trees, jumping garden beds, cartwheeling beaches or leaping logs can make you heathier, happier and more resilient.

But, I went upside down on a knife-edge mountain top because it made me feel better.

Too much time on Facebook convinced me everybody was having more fun than me and I felt miserable. Everybody was on a sailboat in the Bahamas, watching the sunrise on a tropical island, looking glamourous at a barefoot beach party or camping out on a cliff top under the light of a full moon.

While I was drowning in an ocean of emails, deadlines, balance sheets, planning templates and mother guilt that just wouldn’t shift.

It’s that feeling that I’m not doing enough, not being enough, not helping enough, and not mothering enough. I’ve always worked hard but sometimes I set the bar too high for my health.

Not every day. But sometimes.  

I know the best solution for me is to get moving outside, feel the breeze in my hair, the sun on my skin. Even for just ten minutes. And when that isn’t enough, I need an adventure.

Adventure motivated me to squeeze in a bit of hiking, cycling, kayaking, yoga and rock climbing every week and finally fly to Peru with a bunch of girlfriends to do a handstand on a knife edge.

And I’ve just found some scientific evidence showing that active adventures help us all feel happier.

Swiss research just published in the Sports Medicine Journal shows that adventurous physical activity is not only good for you, but it can give you stronger thighs, better dodging skills (handy on the road), a healthier heart, a confidence kick, more bendy bits and more sparkle. This keeps you young.

The new study shows active adventure improves well-being and can transform your life. It also makes you smile and think happy thoughts as well as helping you achieve goals, be friendlier, banish boredom, boost bravery and elicit exhilaration.  

As an adventure health coach, I see this stuff every day in my clients but it’s still a juggle to make it a habit in my own life.  

Meta-analyses of hundreds of adventure education studies show that adventure programs facilitate positive health and well-being outcomes.

Most people think of adventure as a risky or dangerous activity and dismiss it as something for radical thrill seekers. But adventurous physical activities like hiking or kayaking are really good for us. You don’t have to risk your life to experience a heap of health benefits.

Our Coastrek adventures help tens of thousands of women get into adventure every year just by walking 30 or 60km along a coast with their friends. Over 98 percent of then finish the challenge and 70 percent of them say they feel awesome.

This is not an accident. It’s because adventure connects to our primal DNA and brings a whole host of happy hormones bubbling to the surface.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask a doctor. Dr Robert Grenfell, Health Director from the CSIRO says . “Adventurous physical activities like the Coastrek challenge can create sustained behavioural change and lift people’s mood because they are doing an activity that’s intrinsically good for them. And it’s fun so they want more of it.”


Here’s what you can to this week:

  1. Have a daily micro-adventure like skipping to your local park, swinging in a tree, leaping a fence or rolling down a grassy slope or surfing.
  2. Have a mini-adventure on the weekend like mountain biking trails, kayaking down a river or scampering rock ledges. This can lead you to a bigger adventure like an overnight hike or a long distance trek.
  3. Plan a macro-adventure like a girls weekend hiking or an overnight camp/kayak trip

Adventure isn’t just for hard core extremists. It’s a state of mind, so try it, you’ll like it. 


Check out our 2017 trips to find your dream adventure

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