Have you ever seen someone standing on what looks like a surfboard, paddling slowly with an oar, and wondered- What is this strange activity?
This strange activity is Stand-up Paddleboarding, and it’s just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health.
Stand-up Paddleboarding is an outdoor water activity where a person stands up on a large board, which is kind of like a surfboard, only wider, thicker, and more stable. The object of the activity is to stand on the board and use a paddle to move through the water. A process that can be meditative, soothing, and good for developing great abdominal muscles.
Though the origin of paddleboarding remains unclear, with some historians claiming it dates as far back as 1000 B.C. While others claim it was used even longer ago, around 3000 B.C by ancient Egyptians. There’s also evidence of the use of paddleboards made of reeds and bamboo shafts by ancient cultures in Africa and South America. However, regardless of the exact origin of paddleboarding, its popularization in the west is irrefutably tied to Hawaii. In the 1940s, to be exact. When surfing instructors would stand on their boards to have a better chance of seeing incoming waves. And the sport developed from there.
So you might be thinking, “Thanks for the history lesson, but what about this paddleboarding is mentally beneficial”?
The answer is a heck of a lot.
Research has shown that simply being near bodies of water can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Add to that the many well-known mental health benefits of exercise- and you have yourself a wonderful low-impact activity for your body and your mind.
In fact, a recent study about the physiological and psychological effects of Stand-up Paddleboarding has shown a positive correlation between the activity and self-reported improvement in quality of life. The participants also reported that they found Stand-Up Paddleboarding to be an enjoyable, easy-to-learn alternative to traditional forms of exercise. The activity also significantly improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness, core strength, and feelings of well-being.
Another incredibly beneficial aspect of paddleboarding is the effect it can have on your breathing. The repetitive motion of paddling, while breathing in the fresh air of nature can lower the stress hormone cortisol in as little as 30 minutes of paddling. Paddleboarding also triggers the release of feel-good endorphins and helps your muscles and organs to relax while increasing blood flow to the brain.
Now the question on your mind might be “So where can I paddleboard?”
Well, if you live in the DC area, paddleboarding lessons are available on the Potomac for around $60 dollars. Then when you get the hang of it, you can rent them at your convenience. Even more, once you feel confident and comfortable on the board, you may even wish to up the ante and give a paddleboard yoga class a try!
If you do not live near a body of water, that’s ok. Just make paddleboarding part of your next trip that’s within the vicinity of a lake, river, or ocean. With its many benefits, paddleboarding has grown in popularity and can be found almost anywhere where there’s water.
So give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel both physically and mentally.