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New Study: How Being In ‘The Blue Gym’ Boosts Your Well-Being

  • 4 min read

What really happens when you’re out on the water or by the beach.

A recent study has revealed how being by the beach and out on the water, offers proven benefits for our body and mind.

Here’s what they found.


The Research

The research was based on findings from 20 research papers on well-being and health.

Professor Charles Spencer, an experimental psychologist from Oxford University found out that there’s a clear health and well-being benefit.

Keep on reading to learn about the key findings of his recent study called Multisensory Well-being And Boating.

‘Blue space’ is even better than green space

You might have already heard of the benefits of “green space” for stressed-out people.

In a nutshell: Time spent immersed in nature by grass, trees, and woodlands is good for your physical and mental health.

Many people (me included) do forest bathing, shinrin-yoku. It’s a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere”.

The psychological exercise can be practiced by simply walking through the forest or any other green space.

In his study, Professor Spencer found out:

“So-called blue space has even greater health and well-being benefits than green space.

The benefits of blue space for our body and mind

“Blue space“ is the atmosphere by the sea or coastline, including fountains, waterfalls, lakes, and rivers.

Professor Spencer found out that being close to the sea is good for our body and mind:

  • ocean air and the smell of nature has positive benefits on our immune system
  • water sounds remind us of the sound we heard in our mother’s womb
  • being by the beach is sleep-enhancing and stress-reducing

People exercising in ‘the blue gym’ strengthen their embodied cognition

The study shows that being literally out on the water provides the biggest benefits for our overall well-being and mental health.

For instance, people who get out on boats benefit a lot. I’d also add people who go surfing or stand-up paddling.

Actively exercising in the ‘blue gym’ is much better than simply walking by the coastline.

When we’re out on the water we strengthen our “embodied cognition”:

  • We need to pay attention to maintain our balance.
  • We are more likely to live mindfully in the moment with all senses.
  • We are really in tune with natural forces — we have to understand the motion of the wind, and the movement of the water.

When we’re out on the water, we don’t think with our brains anymore. We start thinking with and through our bodies again.

We’re more connected to our bodies.

“The benefits (of being on the water) are likely both psychological as well as physiological and have been traced back to the evolutionary importance of water for human survival.”

My Opinion

Since I was a child, I loved the sea.

Whenever I saw the ocean, my shoulders dropped.

For me, being by the sea is synonymous with letting go.

The calm, the joy, and the adrenaline.

After I caught Covid last year, had to go to the hospital, and suffered from long Covid later, I felt the call of the sea.

I thought:

I need to go and get my head cleared by the sea and be blown away by the wind and nature.

I packed my bags and moved with my baby and husband to a beautiful island.

I have a very personal connection to the sea. I love to go swimming, surfing, and stand-up paddling.

I like to go to the beach and spend quality time with my family.

The one year I spent by the wild coast of the North Sea somehow healed my mental and physical Covid wounds already.

I love seeing scientific literature that proves what I have intuitively found to be true.

What You Can Do

You might also know that feeling you have when you spend time by the sea or even on the water.

According to the study, being out on the water seems to be especially effective because you’re really in tune with natural forces there and with your body.

If you feel low, depressed, or simply need to clear your mind, the best well-being exercise is to spend some time at the sea or even in ‘the blue gym’ on the water.

As Professor Spencer sums it up:

“One of the simplest ways to reduce nearly 12 million working days lost every year to stress, depression or anxiety (…) is to get out onto the water.”

© Kristina God


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