How fishing can make you a better person (according to science)

How fishing can make you a better person (according to science)

“The best time to fish is whenever you can,’ because for the most part, it’s not about the fish, it’s about getting out on the water.”

Fishing is one of the most accessible outdoor sports. Nearly anyone, no matter age, income level or even fitness ability, can easily participate.  The sport is no longer the boys’ club it was once thought of, with many women keen anglers.  There’s also growing age and ethnic diversity within the sport.  Whether they grew up heading out onto the lake every Sunday with Grandpa, or are one of the millions trying the sport for the first time every year, those who fish have a direct connection to health and well-being. Here’s how fishing can help you lead a happier, healthier life.

Fishing can keep you physically fit.
While fishing itself isn’t necessarily going to get your heart rate up, many of the best fishing spots require a bit of paddling, biking or hiking  to reach, all of which have proven cardiovascular benefits. Spending time outside is also good for your body and brain.  The outdoors gives us plenty of vitamin D (but don’t forget the SPF!), makes us happier and helps us age gracefully.

Fly fishing — a specific type of fishing that incorporates artificial “flies” and a weighted line — may also help women with breast cancer recover. Groups like Casting for Recovery combine breast cancer education with the sport as a form of support, therapy and exercise. Casting for Recovery’s site says that the gentle motion of fly casting resembles exercises often prescribed after surgery or radiation to promote soft tissue stretching. The group is designed for women of all ages in all stages of treatment and recovery.

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While not all who fish keep what they catch, those who do may be in for some bonus benefits. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may decrease blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke and heart failure. In addition to heart and brain health, research shows that eating fish can save your eyesight, decrease the risk of asthma, protect your skin from UV-rays and cut your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis in half. Some research suggests that eating a fish-heavy diet could even help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Eating fish could help you live longer.
All of that healthy eating pays off. Some credit the long lifespan of the Japanese to a fish- and veggie-heavy diet. Japanese women have the longest life expectancy in the world, at 87 years, according to the World Health Organization. And while men in Japan aren’t quite as lucky, they do live to an average age of 80.

Fishing may reduce stress.
Many fisherfolk would agree that the gentle lapping of waves and tug on a fishing line is enough to push any stress far from the mind.  Out on the water, casting a line, and being present as you observe the water, wait for the tug on the line and enjoy the surroundings all provide the conditions for being mindful – living in the moment rather than thinking about the past or what is to come.  The sport may also decrease systems of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.   The combination of mental relaxation and an easy form of exercise could also help those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. A 2009 study shows that fishing can lower PTSD symptoms and increase the mood of those who suffer from the disorder. After three days of fly fishing, participants reported a 32 percent reduction in guilt and a 43 percent decrease in feelings of hostility. The feeling of fear was also reduced by 30 percent, and sadness dropped by 36 percent. A portion of these positive effects remained even a full month after the fishing retreat.

Plus, it helps you unplug.

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Some of the mental benefits of fishing may be thanks to the opportunity it offers for us to unplug from our digital lives and enjoy nature. Sure, many love to snap shots of their big catches for various forms of social media or to print off and frame the old-fashioned way, but overall, fishing offers a way to cut back on screen time.

“It gives us a chance to unplug from daily lives and plug into something completely natural.   We can then recharge our batteries in a natural way.” (Superstein 2014)

With all these great reasons to get out on the water… what are you waiting for!

Article adapted from The Huffington Post

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Siwan Lovett

Siwan Lovett

Siwan manages the Finterest website and enjoys sharing stories about the latest research and on-ground projects to bring back native fish. She also manages the Rivers of Carbon (www.riversofcarbon.org.au) program that restores riparian zones in the Southern Tablelands of NSW to create habitat for native fish. She is editor of the popular RipRap Magazine that also shares fishy stories.
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