The Health Benefits of an Adrenaline Rush

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

It’s easy to turn away from adventure; you may like the idea but the actual process of dropping everything and moving across the world, or jumping out of a moving plane, is unrealistic. We’ve written posts about the benefits of trying new things, the importance of spending time outside, even the benefits of living at altitude, but we’ve never explored the many benefits of adventure and adrenaline. So, for the risk takers and the safe goers here’s the truth about adventure and the health benefits of an adrenaline rush.

There are enough quotes about adventure floating around on the Internet from favorite books and movies, to know that the idea has been romanticized. As a collective group we’ve managed to make the unknown appealing, the risk and uncertainty, just added bonuses; but should we really be so enthusiastic about adventure? The short answer is yes.

Over the course of human development we acquired the perception of fear as a way to warn ourselves against a risk. Fear dissipates during certain activities with increased familiarity or proficiency. An adrenaline rush is our bodies’ way of responding to risk. We are offered a sudden burst of energy to respond to the fear-inducing situation. In these moments we get increased alertness, and muscles are primed for immediate action. Which, in so many words, means that after we experience fear and an adrenaline rush we momentarily resemble superman (aside from the cape, unfortunately). Together, this process can actually be addictive.

The power one feels from conquering fear can lead them on a search for new adventures and bigger risks, and this is where the health benefits of an adrenaline rush are actually detrimental. When the outcome of your adventure becomes increasingly uncertain, when the environment is no longer safe or controlled, the risks out way the benefits. That’s not to say you shouldn’t embark on uncertain adventures, say climbing a mountain or moving to a new country, but have an exit strategy and don’t be careless. In fact, this provides a good opportunity for a PSA of our own: when on outdoor adventures and hikes tell someone where you are, take at least one other person with you, and bring sufficient water (that means at least two Nalgenes and perhaps some iodine tablets in case of an emergency). Just remember to explore responsibly.

Now, for controlled situations like snowmobiling or skydiving, the health benefits of an adrenaline rush are much more significant. In recent years a report was conducted on the efficacy of children’s playgrounds. While some parents found them too dangerous, others argued they provide important learning opportunities. It turns out that taking away the playgrounds, and providing a risk-free environment for the children entirely deprived them of the opportunity to engage in motivating and stimulating physical activities. The result was more dropouts and lack of interest in school.

The idea of the playground can be applied to life, while it is important to have elements of risk to challenge ourselves and keep us engaged, it should be proportionate to our age and abilities. If we participate in programs that allow us to learn risk management tactics in a controlled, or semi-controlled, environment we can learn crucial skills that can be applied throughout our lives. In research around the motives of adults who participate in adrenaline sports, it was found that they seek much more than momentary excitement. Rather, these activities provide them with the abilities to achieve goals, overcome fear, escape boredom and expand personal boundaries. It also showed, that adrenaline activities utilize frequently underused muscles, and can reduce the risk of numerous chronic conditions. Perhaps most significant, though, is that if we train ourselves to respond appropriately in adrenaline situations, if we ever are in an authentic situation, in which our adrenaline levels raise to the same or higher amount we previously experienced, our body will have a form of muscle memory and be able to respond in a similar fashion as it did during an adventure. So the more practice you have in an adrenaline situation, the better prepared you will be for the next.

If you’re interested in an adventure of your own be sure to check out our Adrenaline and Adventure Wishlists. As always, stay up to date with all Wishlist news by signing up for our newsletter and following us on every social media platform.