STEVE McCADAMS, P-I Outdoors Writer

STEVE McCADAMS, P-I Outdoors Writer


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According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, an estimated 142 million Americans take to the nation’s waterways on boats each year — and for good reason.

Recent research has shown that people experience emotional, behavioral and psychological benefits being near, in, on or under water, and while participating in activities like boating.

One of the leading researchers on the health benefits of the water is

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist and author of Blue Mind, the best-selling book on the scientific connection between water and happiness.

Discover Boating, the recreational boating industry’s national campaign to get people on the water and started in boating, is tapping Nichols’ expertise and research to better understand the impact boating has on

our minds and bodies.

“The effect of boating on our lives, and its fundamental connection to our planet’s waters, are well-documented from an economic, ecological and educational perspective,” Nichols said.

“But the relationship of a boat to our health has been largely overlooked. We now know, thanks to science, that the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin and inducing relaxation.

“It only makes sense that being on a boat is one of the best ways to access the wellness benefits of the water.”

For the first time, Nichols is exploring how being on a boat benefits overall health. A summary of his finding are quite interesting.

Boating triggers a restful state. It provides the means to get outside of daily routines, allowing our brains to reset, think beyond our current circumstances and connect to something bigger than ourselves.

Being on the water on a boat promotes physiological and psychological changes spanning health and wellness, awe and wonder, creativity and play, and happiness and relaxation:

• Boating resets our brain — With Americans taking less vacation, more than ever people need to restore their minds.

Being on the water has been shown to offer relaxation, restoration and happiness, along with the added benefits of exercise, social time and a connection with nature.

• Boating is meditative — Doing absolutely nothing is a lost art in our society, but is more important than ever as time spent in nature, especially when it involves water, is a valuable way to offset the stresses of living and working in modern contexts.

• Boating is awe-inspiring — Awe is an important emotion that helps us get outside ourselves and is uniquely tied to meaning, purpose, compassion and self-worth.

Water is one of the best sources of wonder, and boats of all types allow us to experience this awe.

• Boating promotes play and induces creativity — Stress is shown to inhibit creativity. One of the best remedies is play, which triggers the release of endorphins.

Watersports and aquatic activities are a source of play, ushering in the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

• Boating appeals to our senses — The mere sight of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness.

A lifelong relationship to water, facilitated through boating, brings vast cognitive, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual benefits for people of all ages and abilities.

STEVE McCADAMS is The Post-Intelligencer’s outdoors writer. His email address is

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