The first thing on your summer adventure list is often to head to the water. Jumping in the deep end or rowing across the lake are excellent ways to beat the heat and have fun. And did you know that many water sports also benefit your mental wellness? Make the most of your summer water fun by choosing the activities that can give you the mental boost you’re looking for.
Improve Mental Wellness Through Exercise
When you’re breaking a sweat for your physical health, it’s critical to understand that you’re also improving your mental wellness. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) emphasize that regular physical activity “can improve your cognitive health—helping you think, learn, problem-solve, and enjoy an emotional balance… [and] reduce your risk of cognitive decline, including dementia.” Adults who regularly exercise are generally healthier both physically and mentally.
Why? The endorphins your brain releases during and after physical activity can improve moods and mental functioning. The Australian Fitness Academy explains that endorphins aren’t the only chemicals released: “Your body will also produce serotonin, norepinephrine, BDNF and dopamine, the reward chemical. All of which have huge positive benefits for the mind. The bottom line: the combination of these five chemicals will boost your mood, and have been proved to help to relieve both anxiety and depression.”
The mental wellness benefits from physical activity are an excellent bonus to the fun you have along the way. To take advantage of these benefits, try water sports that require a lot of full-body muscle engagement and cardio.
Kayaking and rowing are two of the best sports for a great workout. Even though much of the activity appears to come from arm movements, your whole body (including legs and core) will help propel you forward with your boat. If you don’t have access to a boat or want a sport that requires less gear and setup, head to your favorite pool, lake, or pond for a swim. Because you’re engaging your whole body while swimming, your heart rate increases substantially, making this exercise one of the best for releasing those feel-good chemicals.
Focus on Stress Relief
Beyond the release of brain chemicals that can help your mental wellness, the specific stress-reduction element of exercise is vital for overall health. Experts from Harvard explain that exercise can decrease stress-causing chemicals like adrenaline in your body. In addition, many people experience exercise as a meditative act, whether they know it or not. Mental health professionals explain that the mechanical act of exercising can allow our brains to focus on something less stressful than our daily tasks or difficulties.
If you’d like to get the most stress relief from exercise as possible, head outside and choose an activity that requires concentration but isn’t too intense. Paddleboarding and windsurfing are two excellent options that can quickly become meditative activities. After a brief learning curve, the repetitive rocking of the board and the feeling of the wind and water on your skin can help your mind focus on the activity rather than other stressors.
Find the Peaceful Places
Exercising isn’t the only way to improve your mental wellness. Research shows that spending significant time near water is beneficial for our mental wellbeing—perhaps even more beneficial than being in nature in general. The rhythmic order to water, waves, and tides might influence our emotional and mental stability, while the clear air can be calming and restorative. Whatever the mechanism, humans find peace and comfort near water.
Try fishing, wading, and tubing for activities that capitalize on water’s easygoing and comforting nature. None of these require high-intensity physical activity, and they all have the advantage of giving you a fairly stationary location while you watch the waves and ripples. You can easily do these sports solo or in a group to match your mood at the time. Being around others is one of the best ways to improve your mental wellness, so take advantage of the opportunity to socialize on the water.
Whether you’re a fan of intense physical activity or a more relaxed day at the beach, being near the water can do wonders for your mental wellness!
This content is brought to you by Metroparks. One of America’s premier metropolitan park systems, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks have served the people of Southeast Michigan since 1940. Managed by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, the Metroparks are made up of 13 properties in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties. The Metroparks are open 365 days a year and encompass 25,000 acres of nature and recreational facilities. Each year more than 1.5 million people engage with the Metroparks to enjoy amenities such as picnicking, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, nature study, biking, golf, disc golf, cross country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and a diversity of outdoor programs and special events. The Metroparks also provide educational resources on science, nature, history and the environment. Learn more at Metroparks.com.