Sunday, January 30, 2011

Boost Your Self-esteem Through Kayaking

Recently I came across this quote in a women’s magazine; “Five minutes of exercise in a natural setting-like walking in a park or even raking leaves in your backyard-is all it takes to provide a boost in both mood and self-esteem, say researchers from the University of Essex in England. Most powerful; activity near water.”

My first thought was this is what how right that was.  I was feeling terrific as I sat by our cozy wood stove. I’d just been out clearing several inches of light, fluffy, easy-to-shovel snow from our deck and paths. It was about 20 degrees out, and if the air wasn’t completely still, the wind was from the west and blocked by a nearby hill. It was night, after a long day of sitting at a desk, and it was just terrific to be outside moving and watching as the moon peaked out and disappeared behind the thin cloud cover. I was reminded as I worked, how very wide human’s range of vision is, how very big the space around us can be. And really, how much closer can you get to activity near water than shifting snow?

And I thought what a wonderful ad this made for kayaking. But then I found the University of Essex article about the study and discovered the researchers found just five minutes of outdoor activity produced the largest positive effect.

Really? I would get the same mood boost whether I just walked down to my boats and back up the hill than if I got in the boats and paddled up to see what was happening up river? The same mood boost from clearing just a part of the deck as completing the job?

Now, I understand that not all of us (myself especially) are going to circumnavigate Australia, or even Ireland, and that doesn’t mean we don’t have a sense of accomplishment. 

For years I’ve paddled under various bridges over streams leading into the Penobscot, and wondered, could I get under all three bridges in the same tide cycle? Turns out I can, and that’s one of the achievements I’m proudest of for 2010. And there are some people for whom a five minute walk outside is a challenging goal, and who feel great pride on achieving that goal - as well they should.

But though achieving the Three Bridge Challenge definitely improved my mood, I’m pretty sure setting and achieving a bigger goal would help my self-esteem more.

So, I’m not sure who those University of Essex folks surveyed and studied, but I’m pretty positive that there is a measurable difference between the mood boost from exercising outside for just five minutes and spending a day paddling out to Isle Au Haut and back. Though, in a pinch, when my workload is high, it is nice just to sit by the Penobscot and dream of summer……


  1. I agree with your observations on the article/study! Someone should do a study on high blood pressure and the effect a day of kayaking has on it-- I am POSITIVE it lowers blood pressure. I just haven't taken our bp machine out with us to prove it!

  2. I have NO DOUBT that paddling lowers blood pressure and increases self-esteem! I love the early morning drives to a put in area... the excitement and anticipation of a new and exciting paddle... the physical exertion of paddling... all the sights and sounds of being on the water and getting "up close and personal" with nature... and once I return from my paddle... getting to "re-live" it again through the photos I took and blogging about my paddling adventures! Can you guess that I'm "more than ready" to get back out on the water? ;-)

  3. It would be great to get funds to do a study on kayaking and blood pressure. I'm positive we would see great results since kayaking helps us to focus on the present and the rhythmic motion helps soothe our brains. I just wouldn't want to get stuck in the control group who didn't paddle!

  4. Hi,

    Interesting study. I guess a little goes a long way. I think it's also the strategy of getting yourself out there in the first place. If you don't feel like going out, and think you'll only head out for a few minutes, once you get out, you're likely to keep going and make it a healthy habit.

    It takes me 5 minutes or more just to get ready to go out. But it is amazing how many people don't get out every day for any number of reasons.

    It seems to prove just how much we need our natural environment around us. A study that all city planners should review as they continually remove all the natural environment around us.