Orienteering offers many benefits, but its real attraction is that it is fun! It is a joy to walk and run through forests and fields. Armed with a compass and a map, competitors must use their navigational skills to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain, and normally moving at speed. If you like competing, there are many age and skill-level groups to fulfill that wish.
1. There is a balance between the physical and the mind
The ultimate quest for the orienteer is to find that balance between mental and physical exertion, to know how fast they can go and still be able to interpret the terrain around them and execute their route choice successfully.
2. Teaches self-reliance
Orienteers learn to be self-reliant since most orienteering is individual, and even in the team versions, teammates usually practice individually to improve and be better teammates.
3. Sharpens decision making skills
It offers the obvious development of individual skills in navigating while problem solving to locate each control. Decision making is paramount: Should I go left or right? Should I climb that hill or go the long way around it? These decisions that constantly arise require thinking more than quick reactions or instinct; again, that is why orienteering is called the thinking sport.
4. Teaches how to think and act under pressure
Decisions are constantly being made under competitive stress and increasing fatigue, helping competitors become mentally tougher in other stressful situations throughout their day to day lives.
5. Increased fitness levels
Most orienteering terrain is quite hilly and rugged, providing the perfect environment for athletes and non-athletes alike to develop strong hearts, legs, and lungs.
6. Increased cardiovascular capacity
Orienteering requires walking, running or jogging, and hiking. All of these activities increase aerobic capacity and cardiovascular strength.
7. Increased time in nature
There is nothing more calming and centering than being in nature. Exercising outdoors is good for vitamin D levels in the body and getting fresh air!
8. Increased self-esteem
It takes courage, endurance, and mental fortitude to forge ahead by oneself through unknown areas, particularly in unfamiliar terrain and forests. Every time one gets lost and find their way again, self-worth and self-esteem grows.
9. Can be very useful and even lifesaving
This sport teaches self-reliance and terrain discovery to the point where it could save lives. Orienteers acquire the skills and techniques to relocate themselves and to continue on to their destination, no matter what.
10. Become part of a community
The orienteering community is solid and is a great way to socialize while competing. Although it is a solitary sport, there is a sense of camaraderie among competitors both before and after a meet.
BONUS! Can be done anywhere globally
According to the US Orienteering Federation, it can be done anywhere you can make or obtain a map – “through classrooms, schoolyards, city parks, urban areas, residential areas, streets, state and national parks, and wilderness areas.
Even better, you can orienteer in your community, throughout the United States, and all over the world. Orienteering map symbols and appropriate colors are approved by the International Orienteering Federation (IOF) and are followed around the globe (for example, blue stands for water). Therefore, if you pick up an orienteering map in China or Russia, you do not have to read Chinese or Russian to understand the map well enough to orienteer on that map.”