Spending time on the water can be a perfect prescription to improve health and wellbeing

With concerns around the negative mental and physical health legacy of the coronavirus pandemic, new research published 7 July 2021, reveals that spending time on coastal or inland waterways can be an easily accessible and effective way to improve wellbeing.

The research, commissioned by leisure marine trade association British Marine and the charity Canal & River Trust, provides a preliminary exploration of the wider social value associated with boating on inland and coastal waters.

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Comparing moderate with frequent participation, the research shows that regularly spending time out on the water could be even more beneficial than accepted mindfulness activities such as practising yoga or pilates* and even generates an increase in life satisfaction of about half that seen from gaining employment.

The research shows that the more time spent out on the water, the bigger the benefit: frequent participation in boating and watersports compared to moderate participation is associated with anxiety levels 15% lower and a life satisfaction value of 7.3 on a scale of 0-10 (6% higher).

With positive effects of spending time on the water, and as the UK prepares for another staycation summer with more people looking for activities and days out locally, British Marine has launched a new ‘on the water’ website (www.OnTheWater.co.uk), giving details of locations across the UK where people can get afloat.

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The website is designed to connect people with boating and watersports providers offering paddleboarding, motor cruising, surfing, kayaking, narrowboat cruising, sailing and more on either inland canals, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, or along the coast.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is a Supporter of OnTheWater.co.uk, and RYA Recognised Training Centres can also be found on the website.

The new research investigates the economic value of inland and coastal boating in the UK and is the first of its type to explore the impact on people’s wellbeing or quality of life by being able to get out onto the water.

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Paddle sports are shown to be the most popular and accessible way to get afloat. With further growth in 2020 during the pandemic, over 20.5 million people annually take to the water doing a paddle sport, and the activity represents almost half (45%) of the economic contribution of wider tourism expenditures associated with the boating and watersports sector in the UK.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, comments: “Whilst ‘blue space’ has long been recognised to contribute to overall wellbeing, offering both physical and mental health benefits, I am delighted that our new research not only confirms this but places frequent boating and watersports alongside activities such as yoga, that are known for their restorative and mindful benefits.

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“The many lifestyle benefits are all the more reason to take to the water this summer and we want to share this news far and wide to encourage people to try something that is not only fun but good for fitness and health.

“The boost received each time we push away from the shore, coupled with fresh air and vitamin D will be particularly welcome as COVID-19 restrictions ease and we move out of the pandemic. The staycation season has begun and OnTheWater.co.uk is geared towards inspiring people to get afloat through finding the right experience in a location of their choosing.”

Richard Parry, Chief Executive of the Canal & River Trust, said: “This study provides an important baseline in the wellbeing research around boating activities. It is the latest piece of research that demonstrates the substantial value of the nation’s inland waterways to people everywhere; from providing vital green and blue spaces in our towns and cities, to supporting biodiversity and helping mitigate climate change impacts.

“It is particularly encouraging to see the positive benefits of paddle sports; with our waterways on the doorstep of nearly nine million people, this can often be the most accessible way to get out onto the water to experience the unique wellbeing benefits of spending time afloat.”

There are a huge variety of experiences that can be enjoyed in the UK to suit everyone and all budgets, whether living by the coast or near inland waterways.

Ready to help people try something new, for a day, a week, or a lifetime, OnTheWater.co.uk displays boating and watersports providers, and can be searched by location to find activities close to home or where people may be holidaying in the UK.

Incredible experiences await, including paddleboarding, motor cruising, surfing, kayaking, narrowboat cruising, and sailing.

Users of the website are invited and encouraged to share their experiences afloat on social media, and in turn inspire others to do the same, by using the hashtag #OnTheWater.

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