As summer hits its stride, we share a few choice reasons why diving into the big blue is as good for the soul, as it is for your fitness.
Be it jet skiing, swimming, water-polo, paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing...there’s no end to the ways in which you can get fit in the water – and as the summer heats up, there is nothing nicer than pulling on your bathers or a wetsuit and taking the plunge. We also know working out in water offers a range of health benefits – it’s gentle on the joints, builds cardiovascular stamina, improves strength and flexibility, and increases circulation.
What you may not know is you lose 90 per cent of your body weight in the water, while it simultaneously provides 12 per cent to 14 per cent more resistance than air – which is the equivalent of having weights all around your body. Essentially the jury is in – water sports are great for your health and fitness!
But what about your brain?
For starters, any quality workout will produce those feel good endorphins, and water sports are no exception. And if you are suffering from a summer case of the hot and bothered, then a dip in the water will cool you off and make you feel energised and motivated to work out.
Many water sports carry a degree of skill mastery (paddle boarding, slack lining over water, water skiing and surfing are great examples), which keeps your brain active and focused on the task at hand which is a form of meditation for a busy or stressed mind. Then there is the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you nail a new skill.
Water sports are also inherently fun, which is the best way to naturally up your physical output (visualise how you work out at the gym versus how you might fly for a volleyball or push that little bit harder to stay on the board as long as possible.) We lose track of time and see fun physical activity as a joy rather than a means to a getting-fit end.
The boffins at Harvard also point out that as water sports generally take place outside, you’ll get a nice boost of sunshine which will see vitamin D levels rise. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, including depression and heart attacks. They also found light in general tends to elevate people’s mood, and this is boosted by the exercise factor, which has been shown to help people relax and cheer up.
Researchers at the University of Essex in England have also found exercising in the presence of nature has added benefit, particularly for mental health – and their research shows improvements in self esteem and mood after just five minutes of “green” exercise (exercise that takes place in nature).
Feel good factor
Last but not least, there’s a growing body of research showing what most of us have already inherently known; that being around water just makes us feel good. Consider this question – why does a room, a house, or an office with a water view fetch a premium price? Why are beach or lake front cafes always packed to the rafters – even in winter you’ll find people nabbing the seats with a view of the stormy sea in action? And it’s not just being around all that vivid blue – a colour found to be calming, but the sounds of the sea. Numerous studies have shown the calming effects of listening to gently lapping water or waves crashing rhythmically on the shore; which would explain the multitude of meditation recordings featuring exactly these sounds.
One word of caution
The only potential downside to water workouts is the harsh Aussie sun. Try and avoid being out during peak UV times, follow the slip, slop and slap rules and invest in quality sun care creams and clothing. The sun can also cause sunstroke, so drink loads of water while you are out – it’s not uncommon to forget to drink water when surrounded by it. Last but not least, water sports and alcohol do not mix. Save the brewski’s for after the workout!