Like you needed any more excuses to go surfing or get outdoors but here are five backed by science for you to stick it to the Man!
‘Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.’ – Hermann Broch
Those lucky enough to live in an area of natural beauty, or even those that don’t, know the value exposure to the natural environment has on our emotional, mental and physical states. If a simple walk can help ‘clear your head,’ what can a hike, bike or surf do?
Recently the science community has turned its attention to attempting to analyse and quantify this connection and its benefits with some interesting findings. In 2018, the University of East Anglia asked 290 million people across 20 countries what they thought.
The findings revealed that people living closer to nature benefitted from significant health improvements, such as decreasing blood pressure, reduced heart rate, low levels of type 2 diabetes and less cardiovascular disease. It all contributes to our overall well-being, particularly mental health.
The NHS Five Year Forward report highlighted that one out of four people would experience mental health difficulties in their lifetime. With nearly 14% of England’s health budget being spent on treatment, it’s important to question whether there is more that could be done to invest in preventative health care.
Delving a little deeper a study by Pedersen and Saltin in 2015 discovered that the body’s physiological responses to exercise (elevated heart rate, sweating, etc) are like the responses caused by a panic attack. By exercising in a safe environment, the body is seen to ‘teach’ itself that these responses are natural and not harmful. So not only does exercise help us physically, it aids deeper and more complex issues such as our fight-or-flight response.
So, where does surfing fit in?
With technological advances across all areas, we can now access surfing in an immersive way unlike ever before. So now is the perfect opportunity to use this widespread and evolving sport to help. Surfing and its healthy eco-centric lifestyle appeal to the youth and the young at heart, and that’s an easier and cheaper sell than pharmacological alternatives surely.
The Journal of Sport for Development in early 2019 classed surfing as an integral sports therapy activity. Surfers were found to be improving their sensory, motor, emotional, social and communicative skills whilst engaged in their sport, even experiencing a relaxing feeling caused by the ocean environment. This research bodes well for water therapy and using surfing as a form of treatment.
The Wave Project in Newquay, Cornwall, is a great example of how successful water therapy can be integrated into the community as a way of using the environment as a preventative health care measure. Formed in January 2011, the Wave Project is a charity-run kinaesthetic therapeutic programme, aiming to support children by changing lives through surfing.
By using surfing as a way of connecting with their clients and assisting with their mental health, the programme is now an integral part of a growing national and international water-therapy based movement. And other programmes and projects are popping up around the globe.
As far back as 2007 a study revealed that cold showers could be used as a potential treatment for depression. A bold statement, sure, but the evidence suggested that exposure to the cold activated the nervous system and increased a number of feel-good hormones in the body.
With further exposure, individuals were seen to have relief from depressive symptoms, and, with no noticeable side-effects, the application of this research to water therapy supports the idea that you’ll feel better after a bracing dip in the sea!
With the research starting to build and surf therapy having real-world applications across the globe, we must understand just how much of an impact the natural world can have on us and our physical and mental health.
So now you have a few extra quantifiable reasons to validate your ‘ocean therapy’ to your boss, partner or doctor – ‘cos science says so!’