Is This Exercise? No, It’s Geocaching! Exploring Factors Related to Aspects of Geocaching Participation
Keywords:Technology, geocaching, enjoyment, outdoor recreation, physical activity, self-efficacy, adolescents
AbstractGeocaching is a way to integrate technology with physical activity. Geocaching utilizes a global positioning receiver system (GPS) that provides coordinates directing participants to find treasures or “caches.” With the continued concern over decreased physical activity participation in youth, it was considered that geocaching may be one way to increase physical activity among youth as its novel, fun, and involves technology. From a programming perspective, geocaching may be used as a large special event, drop-in activity, or after-school program. It can be performed as an individual or group. Since it is a relatively new activity, specifically for youth, we were interested in the factors related to geocaching, including psychosocial factors associated with physical activity participation, to determine if geocaching may be of interest for youth physical activity programming. We recruited youth, aged 14–18 years, from a high school in rural western North Carolina. Since geocaching was a novel activity to this group, we created an infrastructure and made our own geocaching course and developed caches while using the www. geocaching.com website. The caches used were small plastic containers that contained a notebook for participants to record their names once found. These caches were set up using GPS coordinates; however, written instructions and clues were also provided. Finally, participants were placed into groups of three to four, and each group was provided with its own GPS receiver. A sample geocache session that had one cache site with clues was performed by each group to make sure they understand the process. In order to further understand the potential geocaching has for improving physical activity participation in youth we had all participants complete a series of questions. The surveys assessed current PA behaviors as well as psychosocial factors including social support of friends and family, self-efficacy, and PA attitudes and behaviors. Additionally, items were created to determine interest and ability for geocaching for this study, as no other geocache scales were available. Results from the Geocaching Interests/Abilities scale created by the authors indicated youth scored high on questions asking if looking for hidden treasures would be fun and more fun than walking. Youth also reported preferences for being outside and enjoyment in using technology. Correlation analysis revealed significant relationships between psychosocial variables and reported PA, but little to no relationship between psychosocial variables and Geocaching Interests/Abilities. Results suggest youth are interested in geocaching regardless of gender, reported PA levels, or traditional psychosocial factors such as social support and self-efficacy. The geocaching program we designed would be an easy one to replicate in any after-school setting or youth group. From a practitioner perspective, geocaching may be an effective way to engage youth in physical activity in a nontraditional manner. In order to promote geocaching at a facility developing brochures, providing signage or using social media may assist in providing sites other ways to promote physical activity to clients.
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