May 14, 2019

venture beyond

10 ways Jasper National Park can make you happier and healthier

Sabrina Doyle
4 minute read
Written by Sabrina Doyle

There’s growing scientific evidence that being in the mountains isn’t just The Best Thing Ever™ but that it can also significantly contribute to people's overall wellness. As if you needed more reasons to visit.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to imagine that most people in Jasper are happy. For starters, unless you’re one of the approximate 5,000 people who live here, then you’re likely to be on vacation. But according to recent research, the reason(s) you see so many smiles in the national park goes beyond simply having a break from the day-to-day routine of home.

Intuitively, we know that nature is good for us. We go outside and, barring any surprise wilderness emergencies, we feel better. Thanks to scientific advances and fast-growing interest in the topic, we’re learning more and more about why being in nature has such positive effects.

The results are so impressive that medical professionals around the world have started prescribing time in nature. In Japan, ‘forest bathing’ has become a common therapeutic treatment. In Scotland, physicians sometimes add hiking to the recommended treatment plan for those suffering from anxiety and depression. In the United States, some researchers decry the rise of ‘nature deficit disorder’ among screen-addicted children. In Jasper, even the mayor follows the town’s unofficial motto: a bike ride a day keeps the doctor away.

The good news is that evidence suggests benefits can come from even small doses of “ecotherapy”; as little as a 15 minute walk in a park can have a positive effect (just imagine the boost you’d get from a sojourn in the Jasper backcountry). In case you needed more of a reason to visit Jasper, here are 10 ways Jasper can help you be a better you.

1 Find calm by going for a hike

Know that calm feeling you get on the trail? The exact cause isn’t certain (is it the soothing sounds of bird call? The aromatic phytoncides released by trees? A combination of both, and much more?) but when scientists measure people’s physiological stress markers before and after spending time in green spaces, results often show lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol post-nature. Go with a guide for a more complete experience.

2 Soak away stress at the spa

Nothing melts stress like submerging it in deliciously warm water. At the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, your extensive wellness menu itinerary can include the eucalyptus steam room and sauna, a new 20-person outdoor hot tub and heated pool (hello views!) and customized treatments at the Reflections Spa. Or, if your self-care includes a workout regimen head over to the state-of-the-art fitness facility. It's no wonder that the spa was rated the #3 spa in Canada and the #1 spa in Alberta.

3 Increase fitness on the trails

According to multiple Canadian reports, when kids are outside they’re more likely to be in motion. All that informal exercise (aka playtime) builds cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles and spurs the production of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like endorphins. These in turn often cause a domino effect of other healthy outcomes, like better sleep and lower risk of developing type II diabetes.

Explore Jasper's many trails, ranging in difficulty from flat and paved to winding and wild, with a rental bike from Bench Bike Shop or a mountain bike tour from Journey Bike Guides.

4 Improve personal relationships with an unforgettable bonding experience

As nice as it is to savour some alone time in the woods, spending time in nature can also help your personal relationships too. A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, reported that when participants were exposed to natural environments then they rated community, close relationships and generosity as more highly valued than they had previously.

Jasper Motorcycle Tours not only gets you out in nature (feel all that fresh wind whipping through your hair!) but also presents an immensely fun experience that can be shared among a large group.

5 Zen out with yoga

This self-care option should surprise precisely no one. Dedicated yogis and downward dog novices will find plenty of inspiration and room to practice (the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sometimes offers yoga classes for guests too!) and if you're in need of yoga gear or clothing, Lolë Jasper has got you covered.

6 Benefit world ecology with learning opportunities

When people spend time out in nature and experience the associated health boosts, they’re more likely to want to preserve those spaces. This helps protect wildernesses like Jasper National Park, which science is showing can hugely impact public health. If even one more person ventures beyond into nature, it could start a positive feedback loop that affects society for generations.

To help you along your way, Parks Canada offers many fun and educational interpretive programs.

7 Release tension via massage

In addition to a full and diverse treatment list, the Mountain Wellness Day Spa (operating out of the Sawridge Inn and Chateau Jasper) boasts an enviable massage service. Choose from hot stone massage, Thai massage or the classic full body massage and let the therapist's hands work their magic.

8 Eat all the comfort food

Nothing soothes a shattered nerve like pizza; order from Famoso Pizzeria for mouthwatering and authentic neapolitan creations. Other local favourites in the comfort food category include sipping a tea on the patio at Coco's Cafe, or the bison meatloaf with mashed potatoes from Evil Dave's Grill, or even a classic burger from Jasper Brewing Co. Find more delicious dining spots here.

9 Cozy up in a cabin

If we could spend every evening cuddled up by the fireplace in a cozy wood cabin, we would not be mad. Jasper's cabin heritage is felt in many of the local accommodations, whether it's through the building's overall structure or in the aesthetic decor. Explore 9 unique cabin rentals here.

10 Achieve awe

Beautiful nature is often described as awe-inspiring (guilty 🙋). A 2018 study tried to examine how the impact of nature on well-being and stress-related symptoms is explained by experiences of awe. After military veterans and youth from underserved communities were taken whitewater rafting, researchers found that the more awe the participants reported, the more improvement they saw in their well-being and symptoms of stress one week later.

Jasper is famous for its excellent whitewater rafting experiences, but another sure way to secure all the awe you can handle is by taking a panoramic ride up the Jasper SkyTram.