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Mental Health vs. Mountain Sport and Recreation

Your mental health matters

Mental Health vs. Mountain Sport and Recreation

By Alana MacLeod on November 5, 2020

Perhaps more than ever, mental health and its implications are at the forefront of minds across the world. We’re only about two and a half months away from having lived out an entire year of a world-wide pandemic in the Bow Valley and it’s been a year of unapologetic loss. We’ve said goodbye to loved ones, we’ve closed doors on businesses built from the ground up; we’ve lost jobs, opportunities, planned vacations, and more. We’ve grown accustomed to a predominantly virtual life and have long since forgotten what a pair of jeans feels like on our skin, finding comfort now in the snugness of a good pair of sweats and food — lots of really delicious food.

With that being said, Bell Let’s Talk Day this year feels a bit different. It could be said this past year has led to an openness around mental health that may not have been as prevalent prior to COVID-19. Tireless work has been done over the past years to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and while this pandemic has had lots of negative impacts, perhaps this newfound openness is something we can look at in a few years and remember fondly as a positive. If anything, at least we are creating a safer space for those struggling to open up, to reach out, to seek help, and I think that’s pretty beautiful.

At Rocky Mountain Adaptive, we recognize the importance of mental health and even more, the importance of creating a safe, open and honest space for our staff, volunteers and participants. Bell Let’s Talk Day provides a chance to spark meaningful dialogue, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to share with you all the positive impacts mountain recreation can have on mental health.

A man and a woman smile at the peak of a mountain

There are studies upon studies that proclaim loudly the benefits of getting active and outdoors when it comes to our brain health. It can be easy to forget that struggling mentally translates heavily to our physical bodies. Anxiety and depression, for example, can have various physical symptoms such as aches and pains, rapid breathing/shortness of breath, or insomnia. Taking care of our minds is possibly the most important thing we can do for our own self care.

For us, that starts with mountain sport and recreation. According to a research paper on the benefits of outdoor recreation and health by Geoffrey Godbey, a professor of leisure studies at Penn State in the U.S., a key link between outdoor physical activity and health has long since been made. “Research has confirmed a link between physical activity that takes place outdoors and positive health outcomes—and also an association between an indoor, sedentary lifestyle and negative health consequences,” he writes.

“There is also evidence that both being outdoors and viewing natural scenes can reduce stress. The links are sufficiently strong that researchers and practitioners in health related fields are now beginning to identify parks and recreation as a health service.”

A male instructor and guest look and laugh at each other

Outdoor recreation, or mountain therapy as we like to call it, comes with a social aspect as well, which adds meaning and richness to all our lives. The benefits range from increased confidence to reduced behavioural and emotional issues.

In terms of those living with adapted needs, a study conducted in 2012 found physical activity can actually help reduce pain. “Physical activity is important for all Canadians for promoting physical and mental health and social inclusion,” says a research paper called Level the Playing Field conducted by the Canadian government Human Rights Committee. “For many persons with disabilities, it can help reduce pain levels and the instance of secondary conditions.”

We see firsthand the benefits of recreating outdoors. We see it in the smile of a person who’s gliding down the mountain in a sit ski. We see it in the euphoric faces of participants kayaking, or paddle-boarding, or rafting for the first (or the third, fourth, twentieth) time. We see it in the reviews left by family members who witnessed their relative experience the pure joy one can only get from accessible recreation in the Rockies, and in turn, felt that joy themselves.

So, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, we encourage you to get outside and do something you enjoy. Whether it’s cross country skiing, downhill skiing, skating, or just taking a walk. And if today outside feels daunting, we’d like to remind you that’s okay. Sometimes just getting yourself out of bed is a task to celebrate, to feel proud of.

Lastly, please remember you matter. Your mental health matters. You are worthy and deserving of good things and all the love in the world.

3 people dressed in Australian swim hats and t shirts cheer

Inspired by this Story?

If this story has inspired you to get involved in adaptive sports, we have a large range of accessible adventures available to you.

Join In the Fun

Want to join the fun and give back? Volunteering with Rocky Mountain Adaptive is a great way to support your community while assisting others.

Struggling with Mental Health?

If you are struggling with mental health, there are many great resources in the Bow Valley. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

Make a Difference

You can make a difference to the growth of adaptive sports by donating to the Clairey Lou Memorial Fund & Matthew Hamer Legacy Fund. Thank you.

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