The Healing Benefits of Kayaking
Whether focusing on military, first responders or anyone with challenges, there are no shortages of eco-therapy programs. All sorts of fishing, hiking, or horseback riding groups are available; and yet at Heroes on the Water we choose to focus on fishing from kayaks. Why?
There are statistics, studies and articles to support our idea, but we like to focus on the feedback from our participants. Consistently they state how peaceful it is to be in a kayak. You are close to the water, there is no roar of the motor, only the soothing sounds of a paddle as it gently glides through the water. And they consistently tell us that participating in a HOW event saved their life.
In the case of adaptive kayaks, even with pedals the unique experience of being literally on the water prevails. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. It’s like being one with nature.
The Facts – Kayaking is Healing
In addition to the Troy University Study (of which Heroes on the Water participated), there is other research to support the therapeutic benefits of kayaking. For example, a study by Scherer and Yancosek published in the American Journal of Recreation Therapy showed that adaptive kayaking provided significant improvement in the health-related quality of life among wounded, ill, and injured service members as follows:
- 7 percent improvement in depression
- 5 percent improvement in anxiety
- 4 percent improvement of post-traumatic stress
- 7 percent improvement in social interaction
This program was only one week long and focused on 40 participants, and yet yielded statistically significant improvement for the participants. When you consider the repetitive design of the HOW program, it is easy to see how these numbers continue to improve over time, and the participants are able to achieve a more productive, improved life for themselves, their family and their community.
The Reality – Kayaking Is Exercise
Our bodies are meant to be in motion order to experience a feeling of well-being and calm. In an article by physical therapist Carol Tschirpke, kayaking is a well-balanced workout, as it includes arms and legs in a reciprocal motion, increasing coordinated efforts of your arms, legs and core. Kayaking is quick to learn, easy for one person to manage and offers a great cardiovascular workout, even with adaptations to accommodate injuries.
In his book Brain Beat: Scientific Foundations and Evolutionary Perspectives of Brain Health, Michael Hoffmann, MD, PhD outlines specific advantages seen in kayak therapy, including:
- Maximal aerobic potential, comparable to swimming.
- The ability to do in tandem, which facilitates learning.
- Nature therapy.
- Gravity-related injures not an issue.
- Safety, as there are no roads, falls or collisions as you might see in running, bicycling or equine therapy.
- Those with a higher BMI are not compromised and can participate.
As we know, exercise releases endorphins and improves mood and sense of harmony. Kayaking has low barriers to entry as a form of exercise and a sport, plus the benefits are proven. This makes it an ideal eco-therapy for military, veterans, first-responders and families to enjoy.
The Reason – Paddle. Fish. Heal.
Heroes on the Water adopted the tagline PADDLE. FISH. HEAL. for very specific reasons. It reflects how we support our warriors and their families, it focuses on what we do, and it sums up everything in a succinct way. Paddling in kayaks is therapeutic and good exercise. Fishing is also proven to be therapeutic and provides a great way to focus a person’s mind so that they can do the thing that is most important – HEAL.
Heroes on the Water is celebrating a Decade of Difference as this is the year of our 10th anniversary.Starting from a simple premise that has grown to support thousands of warriors and families, we are honored to continue the mission to help warriors relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate through kayak fishing and the outdoors. Join us in supporting our nation’s heroes by donating to our proven therapeutic, eco-therapy program today. Just $50 provides a half day of kayak fishing, so we can help those who have sacrificed so much gain some peace.