5 Health Benefits of Fishing That Can Improve Your Life
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The Health Benefits of Fishing: Reconnecting with Nature
*Note: This article is not intended to provide any medical advice, nor suggest that any of the information enclosed will cure, treat, or otherwise remedy any physical or mental health issues.
Every year, nearly 50 million Americans purchase a fishing license. Whether they are fishing from a boat, a kayak, or the shore, those numbers alone prove that fishing may, in fact, be America’s greatest pastime.
And there’s a good reason for that.
Not only is fishing a relatively laid back endeavor (compared to, say, football or ice hockey), but there is also a very low barrier to entry.
Whether you are fishing for petite panfish or massive muskie, every single bite can provide an incredible thrill.
What many anglers don’t realize, however, is that fishing has some pretty amazing health benefits!
Now, if you’re working seventy hours per week, slamming beers and sodas and devouring chips and ice cream every night, fishing isn’t going to provide some miracle, life-changing results by itself. That said, as part of a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle, spending regular time on the water can have excellent benefits to your brain, body, and overall health.
So, the next time your partner says you’re spending too much time fishing, just have them read the benefits below.
Fishing Can Be Good for the Heart
When you’re discussing the health benefits of fishing, this is perhaps the most important.
It’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of folks to talk about, but it’s a reality — many Americans find themselves at high risk for heart disease.
According to Healthline, over 30 million Americans adults were diagnosed with heart disease in 2018. When you break those numbers down, that’s roughly one out of every eleven citizens. When you adjust for adults only, that percentage becomes even more daunting.
Out of every 100,000 Americans, the death rate from heart-related issues is staggering. The approximate breakdown of deaths per 100k citizens is as follows:
- White Males: 274.5 deaths
- Black Males: 202.8 deaths
- White Females: 231.4 deaths
- Black Females: 165.5 deaths
Even worse, after experiencing a heart attack, roughly 26% of women will die within one year. For men, that number is only slightly better at 19%.
When combining hereditary traits with poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, the risk for heart disease can grow exponentially. Add in stress — “the silent killer” — and it’s easy to see why such a high percentage of Americans receive this diagnosis annually.
Research from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that “the high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.”
So, how can fishing improve heart health?
According to a February 2019 article from Time Magazine, even spending 20 minutes in nature can have a positive effect on your well-being. Prolonged time outdoors — especially near green spaces — can lower stress, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Other studies suggest that blood pressure can decrease by up to ten points while engaging in fishing or other recreational endeavors.
Fishing is Beneficial For the Brain and Mental Health
Until a few decades ago, humans spent a lot more time outdoors.
Kids played with their friends. They got dirty. They rolled around in the grass and played sports year-round.
Neighbors would come over for cookouts or just some chatting on the porch. Swimming, horseshoes, badminton, and other activities were commonplace.
Today, however, both children and adults spend an unhealthy amount time locked inside, staring into screens.
Even when families are out to dinner, you can sometimes see every single member of a dinner party scrolling on their phones as they wait for their food to arrive.
And the problem only seems to be getting worse…
On average, Americans spend approximately three hours per day on their phones. Add in time spent on a computer, tablet, or watching television, and it’s easy to see that we aren’t living according to natural design.
And let’s not even get started on Netflix…
An excellent article on Verywellmind highlights numerous possible impairments humans face by such prolonged screen exposure. These include, among other issues:
- Poor circadian rhythms/restless sleep
- Degraded social skills, especially among children
- A condition informally known as “lazy brain”
- Significantly reduced cognitive ability
- Increased anxiety
In the infographic above, you will see that Americans consume 3.6 zettabytes (or roughly 5.1 trillion hard drives) worth of data every single day. Without complicating things even further with percentages and breakdowns, it’s safe to say that those numbers are ridiculously high.
Being just as guilty of mindless scrolling as anyone, I do know that time on the water is one few times I don’t pay much mind to my electronics. Aside from snapping a quick fish photo here and there, hours might pass without even touching my phone.
And it feels really, really nice.
Once I finally plug back in, it almost feels wrong. Dirty, even.
Sure, I’ll revert to old habits and check Facebook or Instagram once we get back on land, but good fishing requires patience, commitment, and attention. Within minutes on the water, you start observing — seeing, hearing, even smelling — in ways you won’t when you’re consumed by the hyper-fast digital world.
We even institute a “silent or vibration only” policy on our boat. If your phone dings, you’ve effectively committed a cardinal sin.
By focusing on you catching fish, however, you can receive a temporary reprieve from so many negative, overloading signals that pollute your mind every day.
No politics, no drama, no clicking — just fishing.
Fishing is a Social Activity
I know plenty of anglers who have had good experiences fishing solo. If you land a decent fish or are simply casting into calm water on a nice, cool afternoon, fishing can be a wonderful escape from some of life’s more frustrating elements.
That said — and I firmly believe this is true for almost anyone who has spent any amount of time on the water — fishing is better with friends and family.
Far too often, however, we isolate and put social encounters — genuine, human interaction with others — on the backburner, choosing for remote correspondence instead.
We text rather than call.
We take rainchecks on linking up with old friends and family members.
Life’s simply too short for that. We miss time with loved ones and close friends, only to regret it down the road.
Hitting the water and fishing with these individuals not only gets you out of the house — it also offers to possibility to create new and lasting memories.
Some of the many benefits of fishing with others include:
- Improved Safety: While fishing is generally a safe activity, any number of things could go wrong. People slip. Sometimes they fall overboard. And we all know someone who has taken a deep hook to the skin. Having at least one other person around can help keep an unfortunate situation from turning tragic.
- Hold My Camera: In a world of “CPR” — catch, photo, release — it’s a lot easier to have access to your own personal photographer. Not only can you get better angles, but it cuts down on your own frustration and increases the chances of safely returning the fish to the water.
- Some Friendly Competition: We have a running wager that takes place every time we take our boat out: the first person to catch a non-sunfish (or other smaller baitfish) gets five dollars from everyone on the boat. Regardless of what we are fishing for, this rule is in place. Other times, we will compete to see who can catch the most fish, or the longest fish, or the heaviest fish. Even with these challenges in place, it’s exciting when your fishing partner is reeling one in. That said, it makes for a (usually) friendly, light-hearted affair and some good stories afterwards.
You Can Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
Another harsh reality is that Americans, as a whole, have horrible diets.
If you follow any of the “trendy” diets — vegan, keto, paleo — arguments can be made that you are missing out on vital nutrients.
For those following the standard American diet, however — which also includes fast food, soda, ice cream, chips, cookies, etc. — then it’s a guarantee you’re getting too much of the bad stuff and too little of the good stuff.
While it has become commonplace to take a multivitamin or mix in some fruits and vegetables, studies show that we, as a society, are incredibly lax.
According to the CDC, nearly 40% of Americans are considered obese. The same report suggests that between 50 & 60 percent of Americans consume at least one “sugary” drink per day.
So, how can fishing lead to a healthier diet?
For starters, regular exposure to sunlight can increase our intake of Vitamin D. Often called “the sunshine vitamin,” it can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve brain functioning, and is believed to have cancer-fighting properties.
If you are the type of angler who enjoys catching your meals, there’s even more good news!
In addition to providing the aforementioned vitamin D, fish have a plethora of other essential vitamins and minerals that can help your overall diet and health.
Some of these include:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Reduces plaque in arteries, lowers blood pressure, reduces triglycerides, and cuts down the risk of heart disease and heart attacks
- B2 (riboflavin): Breaks down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for energy use and allows oxygen to be used by the body
- Calcium: Builds and maintains strong bones and helps muscles, nerves, and heart function properly
- Iron: Helps create energy from nutrients and assists in healthy red blood cell development
- Zinc: Promotes healthy immune function, wound healing, and thyroid function
- Iodine: Good for thyroid health, cognitive functioning, and metabolism. It is also incredibly helpful during pregnancy.
- Magnesium: Assists with regulating blood pressure, as well as nerve and muscle function
- Potassium: Regulates fluid balance, nerve signals, and muscle contractions. Potassium is also believed to reduce blood pressure and water retention while assisting in the prevention of strokes and osteoporosis.
Related: Want to catch sunfish, crappie, or other popular species of panfish? Check out our article on the best rod and reel combos for panfish.
While many popular game fish taste fantastic when cooked properly, they are also a wonderful source of lean protein.
Fishing Can Improve Your Overall Fitness
So, with all due respect to the fine folks in the photo above, I think most of us would take a few hours on the lake over an hour in a Jazzercise studio.
While you aren’t likely to find a plethora of professional bodybuilders or Olympic-level athletes on the water with you, that doesn’t mean that an angler’s overall fitness isn’t important.
One of the best (and most surprising) health benefits of fishing, however, is that is can have a considerable (and positive) impact on your overall fitness!
Think about this: if you’re out on the water for six hours, think of the various actions your body may be making:
- Casting and retrieving your lure
- Entering/exiting your boat
- Retrieving/scooping a net
- Holding various fish (if you’ve had a good day on the water)
- Repeatedly standing/crouching up and sitting down
- Launching and loading a boat
- Dropping and pulling anchor
- Tying knots
- Walking to your fishing spot/vehicle/launch ramp/etc.
While this hardly constitutes a high-intensity workout regiment, the reality is that this is more concentrated muscle movement than many anglers — especially some older folks who might be leading a pretty sedentary lifestyle — get over the course of a normal day.
According to the American Psychological Association, between 25 and 35 percent of American adults lead an inactive lifestyle. So, while casting and pulling an anchor might seem a bit pedestrian to some, it can be especially beneficial to those who don’t move around much on a regular basis.
While it may not hold true for all anglers, most folks I know are prone to hydrate better while they are fishing. This also includes drinking more water than they would otherwise.
Seeing as poor fitness contributes to the death of roughly 16% of Americans each year, even making slight adjustments can significantly help reduce that risk. So whether you are sweating at the gym or moving around on the water, getting moving is definitely worth the time and effort.
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