4 Therapeutic Benefits of Salt Caves

Spending a spa-like afternoon in a salt cave can provide a relaxing retreat. In addition to lowering your stress level for a few hours, dry salt therapy offers some amazing health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what salt therapy—or halotherapy—is and what it can do for you.

A look at salt therapy

Basically, salt therapy is an alternative medicine technique that involves spending time in a salt cave, salt room, or salt grotto that has a high concentration of salt in the air. These environments can be either active—wherein a halogenerator is used to grind up dry salt and disperse it as an aerosol into the room—or passive, wherein a salt cave is replicated by filling a room with large slabs of salt.

According to the Salt Therapy Association, this type of therapy has a long history. Its origins date back to mid-19th century Eastern Europe, where salt miners in Poland were found to have achieved health benefits. In particular, the salt-infused air underground appeared to help their respiratory system and improve the appearance of their skin. Subsequently, salt therapy was introduced, and salt caves spread quickly throughout Europe.

As a natural medicinal alternative, salt therapy has been shown to have many health benefits. Certainly, some people are drawn to salt caves as a way to relieve the symptoms of various ailments. For others, it’s preventative medicine and part of a regular health regimen. The following are some of the primary therapeutic benefits of salt therapy.

Eases breathing

Salt is extremely absorbent and has both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When you breathe in salt, it can help to reduce congestion and break down mucus, making breathing that much easier. The airways are cleansed of unwelcome bacteria and toxins. By absorbing such foreign substances, lung function is improved, as is the overall health of your respiratory system. You may find that you’re not as short of breath, have fewer coughing spasms, and become less likely to reach for your inhaler to open up your airways.

It’s not difficult to see that regularly spending time in a salt room can prove therapeutic for common conditions that impact breathing such as asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. Salt therapy can even provide relief for people with more severe illnesses such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Plus, if you’re simply experiencing the effects of a cold or flu, you may breathe easier after a salt cave session and recover just a little faster, as the air clears out some of the bad bacteria in your respiratory tract.

Helps to improve oxygen intake

Increased lung capacity can result in improved oxygen intake. The body requires a proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide for optimal functioning. Every breath you take is necessary to support mental clarity and improved muscle function, as well as a healthy digestive system. In addition, oxygen is essential in order for your cells to absorb nutrients from food.

More oxygen flow throughout the body helps to raise your energy levels, enabling you to feel better in general, and encourages a more active lifestyle. Moreover, the antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory attributes of salt can help you to fight off illness and boost your immune system.

Alleviates skin conditions

Skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis, can be improved by incorporating salt therapy into your health routine. Since salt is an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, it can help to alleviate these conditions. Moreover, the salt used in salt caves contains magnesium, which is known to have therapeutic benefits for your skin.

However, salt has many more helpful minerals. In fact, it has over 84 of them. These are absorbed by the skin and provide nourishment and healing, as they moisturize, strengthen cells, and improve the skin’s microcirculation. Furthermore, salt therapy restores the skin’s normal pH balance, aiding healthy skin growth. When skin problems slowly clear up, you’ll enjoy less itchiness and discomfort, and discover that you may not need to rely on pharmaceuticals.

Improves mood

In addition to improving the condition of your skin, time spent in a salt cave can help to enhance your mood. You may find it beneficial to relax in a pleasant space surrounded by healing salt with soothing music playing in the background. Making a trip to a salt room as part of a weekly or monthly self-care routine can also have some long-term positive effects on your mental health.

You might notice that you achieve more restful sleep and have more energy during the day. When you feel healthier physically, it stands to reason that you’ll achieve better mental health, too. In short, more people are discovering how salt caves can support your overall well-being. These days, you don’t have to look far to find this complementary therapy.

6 Qualities That Archery Can Help You to Develop

Archery is among the world’s oldest arts with roots that extend back to Ancient Egypt and perhaps even as far back as the Stone Age. Commonly adopted back then for hunting and warfare, it is still practiced regularly today, but instead has application as a hobby or competitive sport. In fact, archery was included at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1920. Following a 52-year hiatus, the sport was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1972 and has remained a part of its program.

Whether you decide to take up archery for recreational or competitive purposes, the sport promotes several valuable life lessons. While it involves the relatively simple task of pulling back and letting go of your bow, it can take a lifetime to master. Here are six qualities that archery can help to instill in those who regularly undertake this pastime.

Focus

One of the most valuable skills you need to become successful in archery is focus. People who master the sport are able to use a laser-like focus to hold steady and hit their desired target. Simply practicing archery on a regular basis will help to instill this level of focus, as there are several considerations necessary to take to make the perfect shot. Archers also often need to overcome outside distractions.

In addition to honing in on their target, archers need to ensure that they are not only in the correct stance but that they maintain stability and balance throughout the shooting motion. Controlled breathing is another element that contributes to success in archery. All of these require immense concentration. Improving your abilities in archery can help to enhance your ability to focus and overcome distractions in your life.

Patience

Speed is an asset in many sports, including football, soccer, and ice hockey. The opposite is true in archery. A good archer exhibits patience in their approach and follow-through. Rushing, or trying to hit a target without ensuring proper form, balance, and focus, will only result in inaccurate shots.

Moreover, it can take several years—if not a lifetime—to truly master the art of archery. Pursuing greatness in this sport is a practice in patience in itself. One famous Japanese archery master, Awa Kenzo (1880-1939), developed the archery form known as Shado, or the “Shooting Way.” His philosophy was that archery is more than a pastime and sport. Rather, it’s a way of life. He also viewed it as a spiritual event that helped archers to connect with their inner being.

Confidence

Since archery takes so long to master, it can also instill confidence. Unless an archer is participating in a competitive archery event, they are generally their own greatest opponent. However, noticing a gradual progression can help them to gain confidence that can be carried over to other aspects of their lives. In archery, results are easily measured based on your score. Consequently, it isn’t hard to notice improvement in the sport. This is particularly true for youths who take up archery.

“As [kids] begin learning the technique of shooting, they realize it’s not like some of the cool movies they’ve watched, where the hero is shooting a bow any and every which way,” notes Coyote Hill archery instructor Josh McCaskey. “They have a lot of fun learning the sport. The first few times they shoot, the arrow goes off to the side or over the target. But once they start hitting the target, they feel incredibly accomplished having learned a skill. It’s a really big confidence booster for them.”

Responsibility

Athletes who participate in team sports can sometimes afford to make mistakes knowing that their teammate might pick them up. While archery can at times be a team sport, it is primarily an individual pursuit. Archers who make mistakes or miss targets then have nobody to blame but themselves. They not only learn from and improve through their mistakes, but understand the importance of personal responsibility, which is an important virtue in business and other aspects of life.

Persistence

In addition to exercising patience in order to improve their shooting abilities, archers must be persistent in their drive to master the sport. The saying “practice makes perfect” is particularly true for archery, and achieving proper muscle memory to excel in the sport requires regular practice.

Discipline

Archery by nature also requires discipline. Athletes in other sports can excel with different abilities and movements, whereas archers need to be particularly disciplined when going through precise movements in order to reach the goal of hitting their target. Everything from their stance to breathing patterns need to be precise. Moreover, proper stance is not only about your foot position. Archers also need to engage their head, shoulders, back, hips, and knees to perfect their stance. Archers also need to ensure that they hold their bow with the proper grip and have their bowstring fingers in one of the three commonly accepted positions.

Spotlight: 8 Goals You Can Set for Personal Growth

We are shaped during our formative years by the people we encounter, the places we explore, and the events we participate in. These experiences help to determine the type of person we will become as we grow from childhood to adulthood.

Personal development, however, should be a lifelong process through which we aspire to be the best version of ourselves. While this can involve major goals and aspirations—getting a promotion at work, for instance—it can also be achieved on a day-to-day basis by adhering to simple suggestions. The following are eight easy-to-accomplish personal development goals.

1. Learn More

Similar to personal development, the act of learning and seeking out knowledge shouldn’t be suspended once you reach adulthood. Not only does learning support professional development efforts, but it also promotes critical thinking and equips you with the proper tools to understand and manage life challenges. Fortunately, acquiring knowledge isn’t difficult given the abundance of educational resources available online. You can also learn more by allocating more time to reading and not being afraid to ask questions.

2. Listen Better

Learning to be a more active listener is an easy way to expand your knowledge—all it requires is paying more attention when others are speaking. Also, by being a better listener, you can show yourself to be more trustworthy and compassionate. To get started, be sure to remove or ignore any distractions when in conversation with others. Display engaging body language and ask open-ended questions. Generally speaking, good listeners make good friends and communicators, as they make others feel cared for and validated.

3. Wake up Early

Many people promote waking up early as the secret to success. Apple CEO Tim Cook wakes up before 4 a.m., while other successful early risers include Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Although there’s much more to becoming successful in business, waking up early can promote overall productivity due to the simple fact that there is more time in the day to achieve your various tasks and goals. Research has also indicated that those who regularly wake up early are happier and healthier than those who sleep in.

It can be difficult, however, to establish an early-rising routine. One of the most effective ways to do this is to follow a sleep schedule. Aim to go to sleep—and wake up—at the same time every day regardless of your schedule and plans. If falling asleep early is challenging at first, consider putting away all distractions such as phones and laptops and avoid drinking caffeine within at least six hours before bedtime.

4. Be More Compassionate and Empathetic

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” is a famous quote by the Dalai Lama. Being compassionate is integral to experiencing happiness, as it allows us to feel more connected to one another by emphasizing commonalities as opposed to differences.

Make it a point to verbally and non-verbally communicate compassion in your interactions, and encourage others to do the same. Moreover, you should show compassion to yourself by forgiving your mistakes and taking the time to be proud of your successes.

5. Be Proactive

Being proactive means considering any possible challenges before they happen, allowing you the opportunity to handle and overcome them head-on should they arise. Being reactive, meanwhile, means having to respond to obstacles as they occur.

Shifting your philosophy to being more proactive can be achieved by looking toward the future, taking personal responsibility for your success, thinking through possible scenarios, and focusing on what you can control. 

6. Get Along Better with Others

Trying to get along better with others can be beneficial to your personal and professional life. In your career, it both helps with networking and promotes organizational success. Though you and your coworkers will have different perspectives on certain topics, trying to get along with them regardless can enhance productivity. To assist in efforts to get along better with others, try to listen without arguing and ask questions that might provide more insight into their point of view. Moreover, be aware of emotions, but don’t let them permeate dialogue.

7. Become More Mindful

Being mindful refers to slowing down and living in the present as opposed to focusing on the past. Put more simply, it means focusing on the positive instead of the negative. Meditation is one exercise that can help you become more mindful—and it doesn’t necessarily have to be an hour-long session. You can also try taking a minute or two for deep breathing exercises or stretching for short 10-second intervals every hour.

8. Volunteer More

The satisfaction gained from helping others is a benefit in and of itself. Researchers have highlighted volunteerism as a way to enhance mental health, as it alleviates stress and anxiety and protects against depression via regular contact with others. Other benefits include increased self-confidence and sense of purpose as well as improved social skills.

Spotlight on 6 Wineries on the Shawangunk Wine Trail

The Minnewaska Lodge in Gardner, New York, is a tranquil country retreat with 26 unique rooms. It offers access to outdoor recreation, such as hiking near the Shawangunk Mountains and fishing along the Hudson River. A 90-minute drive outside of New York City, the facility stands out for its beautiful mountain scenery and the quiet serenity of its natural surroundings.

It’s also located near the Shawangunk Wine Trail, which features a dozen wineries and distilleries of varying sizes. Minnewaska Lodge is closest to Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery, but these six wineries can also be accessed along the I-84.

1. Angry Orchard

Angry Orchard

Best known for its Angry Orchard Hard Cider, which includes flavors such as crisp apple and pear cider, this Shawangunk Wine Trail member business sits on a 60-acre plot of land that features a 100-year-old apple orchard, cider garden, and tasting room. The orchard itself has been used for farming since the 18th century, while the region in which it is located was replete with cider apple orchards prior to prohibition.

Visitors can tour the facility and check out where and how the business’ innovative ciders are created. They will also receive a complimentary flight with three Angry Orchard varieties. Angry Orchard also hosts seasonal events and offers food such as wood-fired pizza and cheese boards.

2. Stoutridge Vineyard

Stoutridge Vineyard

Located in Marlboro, Stoutridge Vineyard offers an array of European-inspired wines, but largely stands out for its vinification. Built on the site of a prohibition era distillery, Stoutridge doesn’t filter or add chemicals to its wines nor does it use pumps. Instead, it produces its wine via gravity and generates all of its electrical needs through photovoltaic solar panels on its south-facing roof.

However, choosing to forgo machine methods in favor of a gravity-flow production system wasn’t just an environmentally conscious choice. The wine also tastes fresher, according to Stoutridge owner Stephen Osborn.

“Lack of pumping and filtration helps to retain the dissolved [carbon dioxide] from fermentation in the finished wine, which alters the flavor profile globally,” he explained to Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2019. “So it’s a texture value, dissolved gasses, affecting the entire flavor profile of the wine. It becomes fresher tasting and more vibrant.”

3. Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery

Launched in 1994, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery is situated on more than 120 acres of orchards, gardens, and manicured grounds. It boasts a critically-acclaimed wine collection produced with locally sourced ingredients.

The winery is best known for its award-winning flagship Doc’s Draft Hard Cider, which is made with apples, raspberries, and pears, among other ingredients. This cider and the assortment of wines, as well as its selection of bourbon and fruit brandies, can be sampled at its tasting room, which is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., 362 days per year.

Guests can enjoy the orchard and facility at their own pace. To that end, visitors are permitted to pick their own apples in the fall against the backdrop of the scenic Hudson Valley views. They can even do so while sampling some of the brand’s wines or sangria. The orchard boasts in excess of 65 apple tree varieties with different flavors, textures, and shades.

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery also operates a patio cafe with food items, including brick-oven pizza, created from local ingredients. It hosts musicians and bands on its patio in the summer and in its dining room during winter months.

4. Clearview Vineyard

Clearview Vineyard

This family owned and operated winery in Warwick, produces eight varieties of red and white dry wines. In the past, it has been listed among the top 25 vineyards in the US by Yelp and Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Like the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, music is an important element at Clearview Vineyard. From 2 to 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, it offers live music specially selected appetizers for certain wines. Food options include cheese and fruit boards and sliced baguette.

5. Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery

Demarest Hill Winery & Distillery is the largest of the wineries along the Shawangunk Wine Trail with more than 90 flavors of wine as well as distilled spirits and brandy. The winery was launched by Francesco Ciummo in 1998 after the Italian native grew restless in retirement. It is located on a 135-acre plot of land in Warwick, which Ciummo purchased in 1982, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

6. Baldwin Vineyards

Baldwin Vineyards

Baldwin Vineyards differs from the others on this list as, in addition to live music, it has several large screen TVs and games for a less reserved atmosphere. A second-generation, family-owned business in Pine Bush, it has been in operation since 1982 and features award-winning Riesling, merlot, strawberry, and raspberry wines. Its spiced apple wine, created with local apples, earned Best Fruit Wine distinction and received gold medals in international and New York State competitions.

6 Reasons Why You Should Spend Time in a Sauna

Spending time in a sauna is considered a form of therapy that, much like cold plunge therapy, has several different health benefits. There are many different types of saunas, including electric saunas, which are the most common and safe. Temperatures in these rooms generally range from 150 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

The American Sauna Society recommends spending no more than 15 to 20 minutes in a sauna since extended stays can increase your chances of dehydration. However, shorter stays in a sauna, especially after exercising, can improve your health and wellbeing in many ways. Here’s how:

Helps Increase Circulation and Support Muscle Recovery

Increased circulation is one of the many health benefits of relaxing in a sauna. The high temperatures make the heart beat faster and blood vessels expand, allowing blood to move more freely throughout the body. Better circulation can help alleviate muscle soreness and even improve joint movement after strenuous exercise. Moreover, enhanced circulation can reduce symptoms of pain and increase mobility for people with arthritis.

The body also releases endorphins when experiencing the heat provided by a sauna. These endorphins help minimize the pain from joint and muscle soreness. Several prominent athletes, including legendary NCAA and Olympic wrestler Dan Gable, have spoken to the effectiveness of saunas in that regard. Even in retirement, Gable spends time in a sauna twice a day. He also dedicated a chapter in his book (A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable) to the benefits of saunas and their impact on his athletic career.

“Nothing’s going to replace the sauna—for me, it’s a tool of health,” notes Gable. “I always say for every sauna you take, it adds that much time back to your life. And if you can’t exercise, at least sauna, because not only will you have heart rate increases, like a workout, but … if nothing else, you know that you feel better.”

Assists with Weight Loss

Sweating burns calories, whether you’re working out or simply lounging in a sauna. People who are overweight or in poor shape can burn off calories at a relatively rapid rate when first using a sauna, while those in moderate shape can burn up to 300 calories during a single session. The heat causes your heart and cardiovascular system to work faster, which requires the body to convert calories into energy.

Of course, saunas shouldn’t be viewed solely as a weight loss tool. If you make no other changes to your diet or activity level, sauna sessions on their own will not help you lose weight or keep it off over the long term. Rather, sauna use should complement an exercise regimen and healthy eating habits.

Flushes Toxins

Sweating not only burns calories but flushes toxins such as arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, and cadmium from the body. These elements are absorbed by the body through daily interaction with the outside world and can contribute to long-term health problems. For instance, exposure to high levels of mercury can cause symptoms such as muscle weakness, lack of coordination, speech and hearing impairment, and even kidney and respiratory failure in the most extreme cases. Many doctors are proponents of saunas for their detoxifying capabilities.

Relieves Stress

Many who regularly use saunas speak about their abilities to relieve stress. The act of spending time alone in a sauna is a conscious choice to choose relaxation over distractions such as computers, phones, and other gadgets. Sitting and chatting with friends in a sauna can also reduce tension as it is a great way to unwind and socialize—without distractions—following a workout.

In addition to these perceived stress reduction benefits, there is a scientific reason why people feel more relaxed after spending time in a sauna. Heat from the sauna helps reduce cortisol hormone levels in the blood and stimulates serotonin production. Cortisol is released when we feel stressed, whereas serotonin is known as the “happy hormone.” Too much cortisol can negatively affect sleep and cause problems with the immune system.

Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Saunas originated in Finland, and researchers from this Nordic country have since conducted studies that demonstrate the long-term health benefits of regular sauna use. One study, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Eastern Finland over a 20-year period, tracked the health effects of sauna use among more than 2,300 participants. The researchers found that those who had at least two sauna sessions a week were less likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease. They were also less likely to experience sudden cardiac death.

Lowers Risk of Dementia

Results from the aforementioned study also highlighted the cognitive benefits of regular sauna use. Dr. Jari Laukkanen’s team of researchers concluded that individuals who spent 19 minutes in a sauna at 176 degrees Fahrenheit four to seven times per week had a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. This aligns with the Alzheimer’s Association’s recommendation of sweating as critical to improving brain health.

Spotlight on 6 of the Best Solo Hikes in North America

Hiking by yourself can be a risky but rewarding endeavor. For safety purposes, you should hike only on well-marked trails that don’t have many challenging or dangerous obstacles.

You should also tell friends and family members where you’re hiking and when you expect to return. For added security, consider purchasing a two-way satellite communicator. That way, you can text others and signal your location to emergency responders in the event you get lost or experience an injury.

As long as you take these and other cautionary measures, solo hiking can be an enjoyable and gratifying experience. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mental health, boost the immune system, and enhance cognitive functions. It is also linked to decreased risk of disease. Moreover, the freedom and solitude of a solo hike can help clear your mind and instill a sense of confidence.

Here are six of the best solo hikes you can take in North America:

1. Cabot Trail

Cabot Trail is a roadway and not actually a hiking trail, but there are several scenic highland paths and loops along the 185-mile stretch of road. Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail has 26 trails of varying difficulty and length.

Popular trails include the Franey Trail and Skyline Trail, the latter of which is a three-hour hike that offers incredible sunset views. It is also recognized as a Signature Experience by Destination Canada. The 2.5-mile trek up the nearby Roberts Mountain is an ideal way to conclude a full day of hiking.

Some of the other more prominent hikes along the Cabot Trail include Aspy Trail, Fishing Cove Trail, and Middle Head Trail. The Ruins Walk, meanwhile, is a 1.44-mile trail that ventures through what’s left of the 18th century Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Those who prefer to hike with a group can take part in the annual 10-day Hike the Highlands Festival.

2. John Muir Trail

Boasting incredible mountain scenery, the 211-mile John Muir Trail starts in Yosemite National Park and extends through the High Sierra mountain range until reaching Mount Whitney, which is the highest peak in the continental US. The challenging route passes through six high-elevation mountain passes, climbing almost 46,000 feet in elevation.

It takes around three weeks to complete and a wilderness permit is required to enter the trail. It should also be noted that only 3 percent of thru-hike permit applications are accepted due to the length and difficulty of the hike.

Fortunately, navigation is relatively easy once on the trail. There is an abundance of signage and the trail itself is well-maintained. Highlights along the trail include picturesque views of lakes and mountain peaks, incredible stargazing opportunities, and unmatched backcountry campsites. The best time to hike the trail is between July and October.

3. Superior Hiking Trail

Starting at the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Superior Hiking Trail runs in excess of 300 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline to the Canadian border. It’s a long journey to hike the entire trail by yourself, but there are numerous entry points along the trail for those who are interested in shorter day hikes.

There are, however, several free-to-use backcountry campsites along the trail if you intend to stay for an extended period of time. The trail offers views of the Great Lakes and passes through mountain and forest regions. A large portion of the trail is remote, but close enough to the coast and highways that it’s difficult to get lost.

4. Turtlehead Peak Trail

Unlike the prior two trails, the Turtlehead Peak Trail is a relatively short 5-mile up-and-down hike that can be completed in one day. It’s fewer than 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and offers a stark contrast to the bright lights and glamor of casino-and-hotel-lined streets.

Instead, it offers beautiful desert scenery that includes the Red Rock Canyon rock formations and a variety of wildflowers. The trail is part of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which features an additional 25 miles of trails.

5. Teton Crest Trail

Found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Teton Crest Trail is 37 miles in length and takes about six days to complete. It’s among the most popular trails in the park due in part to its alpine lakes and Hurricane Pass.

Hikers can get an unblemished view of all three peaks that comprise the Teton Range. Other natural attractions along the trail include glacier-carved canyons and wildflower-filled meadows.

6. Trans Catalina Trail

The 38-mile Trans Catalina Trail loops around Santa Catalina Island, which can be reached via a 90-minute ferry ride from Los Angeles, California. There are campgrounds along the trail for those who intend to complete the multi-day hike.

However, this should only be done by physically fit and experienced hikers. The trail features drastic changes in elevation, is subject to unpredictable weather, and is home to many rattlesnakes. Other wildlife found along the trail include bison, foxes, and eagles.

These 6 Tips Will Help You Complete Your First Alpine Climb

Alpine climbing is an adventurous, challenging, and rewarding multi-disciplinary sport. It differs from traditional rock climbing in that participants climb beyond the treeline of a mountain, where they might have to navigate glaciated terrain.

Consequently, climbers should be properly trained and have experience using an ice ax and boring holes for screws specially designed for alpine climbing. The discipline also often involves hiking long distances with heavy backpacks.

Because of the dangers inherent to alpine climbing, individuals should be properly trained and take several precautionary measures before their first climb. These six tips will help in that regard.

1. Start at a Climbing Gym

Before attempting to scale a mountain, consider testing your climbing capabilities at a climbing gym. Many of these facilities offer classes that teach elementary climbing skills and techniques. Moreover, they are more easily accessible and serve as a safe training ground for you to gain experience and become more comfortable with climbing in general. You might also meet like-minded individuals who are willing to share their climbing knowledge or even take you out on a guided climb.

Once you’ve progressed enough at a climbing gym, consider signing up for a mountaineering course to become more familiar with outdoor climbing. Some gyms offer gym-to-crag instruction programs. Prospective climbers should also complete the Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 1 course for added safety. The AST 1 course touches on topics such as the characteristics and triggers of avalanches, the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale, companion rescue, and route selection.

2. Hire a Guide

Even with the proper training and extensive indoor climbing experience, it’s prudent to hire a guide for your first attempt at alpine climbing. Techniques often change and experienced guides can help you become familiar with any alterations. They will also have a good understanding of which routes are the most suitable for your skill level.

The majority of the best alpine climbing locations in the US are found on the West Coast. Companies like Alpenglow Expeditions, Timberline Mountain Guides, Exum Mountain Guides, and Chicks Climbing and Skiing all offer climbing clinics. The latter company delivers programming specifically for women.

3. Choose the Right Climbing Partner

You might feel confident enough in your abilities after traversing a mountain with an experienced guide, but you should still never climb alone. Adverse weather and other conditions along the route can present challenges that might be difficult to overcome by yourself.

Bringing along at least one partner ensures you will have support overcoming obstacles such as slippery slopes, loose ledges, and shattered ridges. Your climbing partner should be someone you trust and with whom you can easily communicate.

4. Plan and Manage Time Accordingly

Alpine climbing is generally an all-day or multi-day activity, so proper planning is a critical element of ensuring a safe and enjoyable adventure. Guidebooks list designated routes on mountains, but these may change over the years. Check online or ask fellow climbers about updates or changes to specific routes.

Once you know the route, consider its length, number of pitches, and grade, among other factors, to estimate how long the climb might take. You should also be aware of sunrise and sunset times in the area so as to not get caught in the dark.

On average, hiking with a full backpack should take about 30 minutes per mile. Add 30 minutes per 1,000 feet of elevation gain. This should give you a good idea of how high you should climb and when you should turn back.

5. Bring the Right Equipment

While it might seem like a good idea to avoid bringing certain items so that your backpack isn’t as heavy, this isn’t a smart approach for beginners. Do the necessary research and make a list of the equipment you’ll need and then gather those items and check them off the list before putting them in your backpack. The last thing you want is to realize you’ve forgotten an ice ax after starting your journey up the mountain.

Beyond wearing appropriate gear—waterproof jacket, mountain trousers, warm insulated gloves, mountaineering boots, and a climbing helmet—consider packing your back with the following: water container, sunscreen, lip cream, crampons with antiball plates, a pair of prussik loops, first aid kit, and a 70-meter rope.

You should also use a printed topographical map as opposed to relying on a phone or GPS to show you the way up the mountain. Your phone could die quickly in cold temperatures and a GPS device won’t give insight into the belay on certain segments of the mountain.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Quit

You should always be aware of your surroundings when climbing and take into account changing weather conditions. If it looks like a storm might be on its way, don’t be afraid to bail and trek back down the mountain. Do the same if you feel uneasy or lack confidence at any point along the climb. It is not worth endangering your safety, and you can always try again on another trip.

Spotlight on the Benefits of Salt Caves

The use of salt caves for therapeutic purposes dates back to 1843. Felix Boczkowski, a physician working in Poland, noticed that men working at the Wieliczka Salt Mine had better respiratory health than that of the general population. Today, salt cave therapy, also known as halotherapy, is particularly popular in Europe, as there are thousands of salt caves located throughout the continent. In addition, there are hundreds of them in the United States.

These manmade salt caves are generally covered in slabs of Himalayan sea salt. Proponents of halotherapy attest to its ability to strengthen the immune system, relieve respiratory conditions, and improve the skin. Some experts on salt caves state that the effects of spending one hour in one are similar to spending an entire day at the beach.

“It is commonly believed that the Himalayan salt will release negative ions (electrons) into the air,” notes Alex Eingorn, the co-manager of Breathe Salt Room in New York. “Inflamed tissue is usually acidic, that is electron deficient, and thus, more electrons available will help the inflamed cells repair.” Read on to learn about some of the potential health benefits of salt caves.

Improve asthma symptoms

A small study found that children exposed to halotherapy experienced an improvement in asthma symptoms. The double-blind, controlled study, which was published in the October 2016 issue of Pediatric Pulmonology, included 55 children with mild asthma between the ages of 5 and 13 who were split between two groups. The results showed that members of the group that spent time in a salt room with a halogenerator experienced statistical improvements across a variety of quality-of-life parameters. Members of the control group, who spent time in a room without a salt halogenerator, reported no improvements.

Moreover, salt caves can contribute to well-being through their soothing ambiance. For instance, the Salt Therapy Grotto & Spa in Naples, Florida, features a cave that replicates the beach atmosphere at night with the backdrop of a full moon over the ocean and stars painted on the ceiling. The lights are also dimmed, and guests can relax in lounge chairs during the 50-minute sessions. Another cave offers a sunny ocean view and features a tent and sand area. Each of the caves is constructed with 10 tons of salt from 13 different locations, including the Himalayas, Poland, France, Hawaii, and the Dead Sea.

While Himalayan salt caves are the most popular form of halotherapy, others incorporate amethyst crystals. For instance, Flow Motion in Ferndale, Washington, has a cavern that has a capacity for four people and features amethyst crystals from Uruguay and Brazil adorning its walls that imbue the room with lavender, violet, lilac, and deep purple hues. Guests can relax on reclining chairs in the caves for 50-minute sessions and experience the healing powers of the salt, which is complemented by soft infrared-heated cork floors and the soothing sounds of waterfalls.

The spa owner, who is a member of multiple caving clubs, drew inspiration for the amethyst room from a cave in Pennsylvania and from Korean spas, which generally feature rooms covered in different gems and stones.

Reduce stress and anxiety

Sound baths are another form of alternative healing that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This meditative group practice involves the use of various instruments or tools, such as gongs and crystal singing bowls, to produce healing sound vibrations. The Asheville Salt Cave in North Carolina combines the holistic healing practices of salt caves and sound baths through a scheduled sound healing concert once a month.

The Asheville Salt Cave has more than 20 tons of pink salt adorning its walls and floors and its sound healing concerts feature various African instruments and singing crystal bowls. The frequencies produced by these instruments help calm the mind and, in some instances, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Other salt cave businesses in North America, such as Quantum Float & Salt Cave and Himalaya Salt Cave, offer sound healing treatments in their respective salt caves.

Alleviate sinus and respiratory issues

Moreover, salt caves could potentially help to alleviate sinus and respiratory issues. In 2015, Montauk Salt Cave in New York was launched after the owner discovered the health benefits of halotherapy the year before when trying to find a solution for her son’s sinus and respiratory issues. After several doctor appointments and with no hope for a solution, she and her partner took their son to a salt cave in New Jersey. After one session, he slept through the night and didn’t have coughing fits in the following few days.

At Montauk Salt Cave, guests are prompted to relax in the Himalayan salt-filled rooms on comfortable zero-gravity chairs and can meditate, nap, or spend their time as they choose. Music is played during each session.

6 Farm Stays in North America You Need to Check Out

Travelers in North America looking for off-the-beaten-path options should consider farm stays. Also referred to as agritourism, farm stays allow guests to reconnect with nature and, on occasion, participate in farming activities. Accommodations, meanwhile, can range from rural bed and breakfasts to operational cattle farms.

Farm stays are particularly popular in Australia and New Zealand as well as in parts of Europe, but places that offer these experiences can also be found throughout the US and Canada, the latter of which even has a farm stay program for international travelers and students. The following are six popular farm stay locations in North America:

1. Foxingham Farm B&B

Located in Mansfield, Ontario, Foxingham Farm B&B features apple, walnut, hazelnut, and almond orchards and is surrounded by lush green countryside and the Blue Mountains. It has three double rooms and a shared lounge that features a large fireplace and library. Outside, guests can hike the Bruce Trail or visit nearby locations for fishing, swimming, golf, and archery, among other activities. Moreover, guests are treated to breakfasts comprised of locally sourced ingredients.

2. Liberty Hill Farm

This idyllic farm in Rochester, Vermont, is owned by Beth Kennett, who, over the years, has welcomed a diverse range of guests into her home in an effort to help them connect to the natural world. The farm features a bright red barn and a large pasture filled with Holstein dairy cows. The farmhouse, meanwhile, was constructed in 1825 and has seven guest rooms.

Guests are invited to help milk the cows and prepare fields for planting. In return, they receive family-style meals with local and seasonal ingredients. During their downtime, many guests choose to explore the scenery surrounding Route 100 and visit attractions such as Cabot Creamery. This Vermont Cheese Trail facility receives its milk from Liberty Hill.

farm

3. Myra Canyon Ranch

Myra Canyon Ranch is about a half-hour drive from Kelowna in the heart of the Canadian province of British Columbia. An ideal destination for families, it has an adventure park, a horse riding stable, and plenty of space for hiking and mountain biking. Guests have a private entrance to their rooms and can even hop on a horse outside their door to ride around and explore the ranch. Other amenities include a hot tub, Wi-Fi, and barbecues.

4. Hull-O Farms

Travelers looking to fully immerse themselves in farm life and engage with a variety of animals should make a point to visit the historic Hull-O Farms in Durham, New York. Established in 1779, the 300-acre family farm is now managed by seventh-generation farmers Frank and Sherry Hull, who provide guests with home-cooked meals and host bonfires every evening.

Visitors are required to help out with daily chores, which includes milking cows and mending fences, but they have plenty of downtime to explore the farm and visit nearby local attractions. On the farm, guests can fish in the pond, play with rabbits and kittens, and go on hayrides. The farm also has a corn maze toward the end of summer and a pumpkin patch in the fall. Hull-O Farms received a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and was named one of the 20 Best All-American Family Vacations Your Kids Will Love.

5. Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast

Owned by John and Judi Stuart, this bed and breakfast is in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, also known as its wine country. A more upscale farm stay, Abbey Road incorporates elements from European agritourism establishments and is rich in arts and culture. Guests stay in circular rooms set in a converted silo, and each room features a king bed and Jacuzzi tub.

During their stay, guests can sample world-renowned Pinot Noirs and take in live music in an outdoor concert setting. The farm also has a concierge service that helps guests select suitable wineries and restaurants to visit. Conversely, guests can choose to spend time at the farm completing various chores and learning how to make goat cheese.

6. Seaweed and Sod Farm B&B

This Atlantic Canada retreat is located in the rural region of Kempt Head, Nova Scotia, centrally located to a variety of natural attractions. It is a relatively private two-bedroom bed and breakfast situated on 100 acres of land overlooking the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Bras d’Or Lake. Guests have access to a shared lounge area and can wander the acreage to meet the farm’s many hens, sheep, and llamas.

Seaweed and Sod is located between the Fortress of Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail. One of the most scenic drives in the world, the Cabot Trail can take several days to fully explore due to its abundance of restaurants, cultural festivals, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The drive alone presents stunning ocean vistas and a look at the spectacular Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Everything You Need to Know about Cold Plunge Therapy

If you exercise too vigorously, you may notice subsequent pain caused by small tears in muscle fibers. This is called delayed onset muscle pain and soreness (DOMS). While muscle fibers repair relatively quickly and help strengthen muscles (the intended result of regular exercise), it is possible to have an intense workout without feeling extreme muscle soreness over the next 24 to 72 hours.

One way to alleviate DOMS symptoms is to take a coldwater plunge, also known as cryotherapy or coldwater immersion. This practice involves sitting in a pool, sometimes filled with ice cubes, with water between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Cold Plunge Pools Work

Cold plunge pool therapy helps decrease muscle pain and soreness by stimulating blood flow which, in turn, minimizes muscle inflammation. In addition, it has been linked to decreased metabolic activity and is said to flush lactic acid, among other waste products, out of affected muscle tissues. Some proponents of cold plunge pools also use hot tubs after the therapy as this is believed to speed up blood circulation and decrease recovery time.

Studies have proven the effectiveness of cold plunge pools in aiding recovery, but some have suggested it might not be beneficial for those looking to enhance muscle size and strength. In 2011 the Cochrane Library released a review of 17 cryotherapy studies and concluded that cold plunge pool therapy was most effective for runners. There are different variations of this recovery method, but most sessions are relatively short and last between five and 10 minutes.

Chillers and Cooling Towers

While it’s possible to get the water to the appropriate temperature with the use of ice, some technological advancements, such as chillers and cooling towers, make cold pool plunges much easier to facilitate.

An on-demand chiller works similar to a water heater but with contrasting results. Instead, it cools the water to the desired temperature before allowing it to flow from a bathtub faucet. This is made possible by a small circulation pump that guides the water through an evaporator before returning it to the water tank.

Cooling towers, meanwhile, are used for pools and are less effective in warm areas. They do not utilize evaporation, and water is often unable to consistently reach below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. They may even heat the water on hot and humid days.

Use by Athletes

Athletes, runners especially, are the primary users of cold plunge pool therapy. Professional athletes have been known to immerse themselves in cold water once or even multiple times per day to aid in workout or injury recovery. The National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, for instance, have a cold plunge pool at the team’s practice facility for all players to use. Colleges and high schools have also been installing cold plunge pools and chillers in recent years.

Life Coach Tony Robbins Is a Major Proponent

Inspirational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins sometimes speaks on stage for up to 16 hours straight when delivering one of his seminars. As part of a routine to keep himself energized, the 57 year old starts his morning with a workout. He follows this up by sitting in a sauna for five minutes before taking a dip in a cold plunge pool. It’s such an integral part of his routine that he has a sauna and cold plunge pool at seven of his homes. The practice was recommended to him by his personal trainer for its cardio benefits.

A blog post on Robbins’ website notes that cold plunge pool therapy not only promotes overall wellbeing but also relieves symptoms of various medical conditions and has long-lasting health benefits. It goes on to say: “And when practiced on a regular basis and turned into a habit, you begin to experience health benefits, including long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory, and digestive systems that enhance your quality of life.”

Weight Loss and Other Benefits

The lymphatic system consists of a network of vessels that help the body cleanse itself. Immersing yourself in cold water causes these vessels to contract and, consequently, flush out waste, microbes, and bacteria from cells. This also has benefits for the immune system, which prompts white blood cells to destroy unwanted substances.

Coldwater therapy can also help boost metabolism and aid in weight loss as it forces the body to burn calories to keep warm. Moreover, a 2009 study found that cryotherapy promotes healthy brown fat and helps eliminate white fat, which is generally found around our thighs and waistlines.

Paleo Association

Advocates of the paleo diet, which harkens back to the Paleolithic era and largely involves the consumption of foods that could be garnered through hunting and gathering, are also typically proponents of cold plunge pool therapy. Paleo practitioners believe in living non-sedentary lifestyles and following practices once popular among our ancestors. Coldwater baths, they contend, bring about benefits such as increased self-discipline, energy, and alertness.