If you’re reading this article, you probably don’t need another excuse to go fishing. In fact, you are probably already thinking about the next time you’ll be on the water casting your favorite soft-plastic baits. But as it turns out, fishing isn’t just a fun way to spend a weekend morning – it is also great for your health.
Fishing provides myriad health benefits that help to support your body and mind in several different ways. For example, fishing helps to reduce high blood pressure, boost your immune system and give your lungs a chance to breathe in some fresh air. It even helps give you a reason to stand more, which is increasingly important as many of us spend our days sitting behind a computer screen.
But fishing also gives you a chance to nurture your head and heart too. If, for example, you fish with your buddies or loved ones, you’ll stay smiling all day and feel some of your stress just melt away. Alternatively, fishing can be a great chance to get a little peace and quiet, which also helps you relax and get rid of some of the stress that builds up during the work week.
There are a variety of other health benefits fishing provides, and you can read all about them over on Outdoor Empire. There, you’ll not only learn about some of the reasons these benefits are so important, you’ll also learn ways to help make the most of them too.
And now, let's get to the key points:
1. Enjoying nature can help you heal more quickly
In the early 1980s, researcher Robert S. Ulrich noticed that post-operative patients in a hospital had different views outside their room windows.
Some of the patients could only see another building outside their window, while others had a good view of a natural area, which was full of trees. Ulrich began studying the differences in recovery times between the two groups, and his results were quite interesting: Those patients with a view of trees healed more quickly than those in the other group.
Additionally, the patients who could see trees suffered from less post-operative pain and required less pain medication than the other group.
Subsequent research has shown that there isn’t anything special about a view of trees, per se. Rather, it is the view of natural habitats that helps accelerate the healing process and reduce pain. So, this means you don’t have to go fishing in a forested stream or pond to enjoy these benefits – you simply need to go fish in any natural setting.
2. Time spent in nature can help reduce your blood pressure
Although the exact reasons that it happens are not yet clear, time spent hanging out in nature helps to reduce your blood pressure.
High blood pressure (or hypertension, as it is also called) can lead to a host of serious health problems, and put you at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke. And while there are medications doctors can use to help reduce blood pressure, many have negative side effects.
Additionally, research has shown that the benefits provided by spending time in natural surroundings last for some time after you come back to civilization.
And don’t think you have to spend 8 hours on the water to enjoy these benefits – researchers have determined that, while more time spent outdoors is better, it only takes about 30 minutes per week to improve blood pressure and overall health.
3. Some types of fishing can help you burn calories in a low-impact manner
Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds and get more exercise. In fact, a 2013 study found that 80 percent of American adults fail to get the proper amount of exercise each week. But inactivity doesn’t only lead to obesity, it can also cause cardiovascular problems, depression and a host or other illnesses.
Fortunately, fishing can help you prevent these outcomes.
No, you won’t burn many calories while sitting on a dock with a cane pole and doing 12-ounce curls with your favorite beverage. But if you are actively fishing, you can end up burning about 200 calories per hour ( even more when fly fishing in a stream ), which can be significant.
Even a relatively relaxing day of bank fishing will require you to walk up and down a shoreline, while casting and retrieving for hours at a time – all of which burn calories. And if you are fortunate to hook up a true giant, you’ll expend a ton of energy battling it to the shore, boat or kayak.
4. Fishing gives us a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet
In the modern world, we are increasingly assaulted from all directions by noise and commotion, and it is causing many people to suffer from anxiety.
Think about your daily routine: You get up in the morning and watch the news over coffee, you ride to work with the radio blaring, you get to work and deal with ringing phones and blinking inboxes, you head home later while sitting in traffic and then you spend your night watching digital screens and listening to ear buds. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.
But fishing gives you a chance to unplug from all of that, and let your brain enjoy some peace and quiet. Mind you, fishing is rarely a silent activity, but the sounds you’ll most commonly enjoy are of the relaxing variety.
After all, who could be stressed by listening to the sounds of the waves rhythmically rapping against the hull of the boat or the birds and frogs calling off in the distance. Alternatively, some anglers like to listen to relaxing music while they are fishing, and this can have positive health effects too.
5. Fish are a healthy protein source
While the majority of recreational anglers probably release most of the fish they catch, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few home for the dinner table from time to time.
Fish is a low-fat, healthy protein that can help you shrink your waistline, and several species are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, some species of fish are among the best dietary sources vitamin D.
You’ll obviously want to follow all your local laws and regulations regarding the harvest of fish, and you’ll want to concentrate on consuming ecologically sustainable species, rather than those that are rare or at the top of the food chain.
For example, a healthy lake will not miss a stringer full of bluegill; in fact, removing a reasonable number of bluegill from a lake can help ensure the population stays balanced. But on the other hand, you don’t want to take home too many wild trout, as many of their populations are in decline.
6. Fishing can be a great way to spend time with your family and friends
Perhaps nothing is more meaningful than spending time with loved ones, and fishing provides a great opportunity to do so. Whether that means bringing along a good fishing buddy, your spouse or your kids, you’ll often have a great time fishing with those close to you.
Of course, you’ll have to make adjustments when fishing with others – particularly when fishing with those who are not avid anglers. You may want to target more easily caught species and fish in less demanding environments, for starters.
You can learn more about taking children on their first fishing trip here.
Also, be sure to consider the types of creature comforts that will make your companions have a better time, and do your best to make sure they catch fish too. You may not have the type of fishing success to which you are accustomed, but the smiles, love and companionship will help make up for it.
7. Fishing gives you a reason to stand up
Many of us spend too much time sitting down according to healthcare researchers. In fact, it is thought that more than one-half of an average American’s day is spent sitting down, and this isn’t good for your health.
Excessive sitting (defined as more than about 8 hours per day) is linked with an 18 percent increase in the likelihood of dying from cardiovascular problems and a 17 percent increase in the likelihood of dying from cancer.
But fishing often forces you to stand – particularly if you are fly fishing or wading out into the water to access deeper pools. And if you are fishing from the bank, you may end up walking for a mile or two in search of productive waters. So, get up from your chair, head to the water and start fishing (while standing).
8. The intellectual side of fishing can help keep your brain sharp as you age
Unfortunately, memory problems and a generalized cognitive decline often occur as we age. However, one of the best ways to keep your brain healthy and operating at light-speed is by challenging it with mentally stimulating activities.
And as we know, fishing often presents myriad mental challenges that require innovative and creative solutions.
Harvard Health Publications provides an overview of some of the best ways to fight off cognitive decline, which is worth reviewing. Spoiler alert: Their recommendations align nearly perfectly with fishing.
For example, the first three tips recommend that you keep learning, use all your senses and have confidence in yourself – all three of which you’ll have to do to have success while fishing.
9. Sunshine helps boost your mood
Unless you are fortunate enough to work outdoors for a living, you probably spend most of your time indoors. And that’s unfortunate, as sunlight provides a number of important health benefits.
For example, exposure to sunlight triggers your brain to release serotonin – an important hormone that is thought to help improve your mood and encourage happy thoughts. Fail to get enough sunshine in your life, and you may become depressed.
But don’t forget to practice good sun-safety. Be sure to cover up with lightweight fabrics during the hottest part of the day and coat yourself in sunscreen before opening your tackle box and getting to work. And don’t forget to protect your eyes too, by investing in a pair of high-quality, polarized, UV-blocking shades.
10. Sun exposure helps boost your immune system
Sun light doesn’t just provide mood-enhancing benefits, it also helps to bolster your immune system.
Most of the immune-system boosting effects sunlight provides precipitate from the production of Vitamin D, which our bodies synthesize when exposed to sunlight. Among other things, vitamin D plays an important role in bone formation and allows the body to use the calcium present in the blood stream.
But recent research suggests that Vitamin D synthesis is not the only way in which sunlight helps prop up the immune system.
It appears that exposure to the some of the wavelengths present in sunlight (remember that sunlight is actually composed of many different colors of light) causes some of the body’s infection-fighting cells to begin moving more rapidly.
11. Fresh Air Is Better for Your Lungs
Although you may come home stinking of fish and bait worms, you’ll breathe easier while out on the lake or in a secluded mountain stream. Here, you’ll spend the day breathing relatively clean air, which will give your lungs a break from the polluted urban air many of us breathe of a daily basis.
This constant exposure to things like ground-level ozone, smoke and dust particles can lead to a number of health problems, including chronic respiratory conditions (such as asthma), heart disease and lung cancer.
While healthy adults can and do suffer from the effects of polluted air, children and seniors usually suffer the most. So be sure to grab your kids and your parents and bring them along the next time you head out to fish.
Understand that there are undoubtedly dozens of other reasons fishing will help you be a healthier, happier person. Being a moderately-active, outdoor-oriented, fun activity, this should come as no surprise.
But we’d love to hear about the ones we may have missed, so let us know in the comments. Each of us enjoy fishing in our own unique way, so share your experiences and outlook on this fantastic hobby with us.
What kinds of mental, emotional and physical benefits do you derive from fishing?