In May 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on the world, the former director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention had a simple message for Americans: get outside.
“Enjoy nature,” Tom Frieden said. “It’s good for us, and it has very low risk of spreading the virus.”
Everyone from the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner to health experts from Harvard University echoed Frieden’s comment, saying research continues to show that outdoor activities—including boating—are a much better way of staying safe from the virus than any type of indoor activity.
The research is why boat ramps and marinas were among the first public spaces and businesses to reopen following the initial COVID-19 shutdowns. Even in hardest-hit states in the Northeast, officials determined that getting out on a boat could be done safely while other recreations like golf remained off-limits.
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“Boating or paddling can provide a refreshing outdoor escape during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peter Francis, boating division director for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Being able to go boating during the pandemic—or at any time, really—is great news, because studies also show that being on or near the water is a boon for psychological health. And who among us couldn’t use a mood booster now and again?
Water is Healing
In October 2019, researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom published a study showing that people who live near the ocean are 22 percent less likely to report depression and anxiety symptoms than people who stay inland. The beneficial effects of “blue health”—interacting with bodies of water—were especially high among lower-income households.
The British study followed a Canadian study in 2018 showing that people living closer to the water lowered their risk of mortality by as much as 17 percent. The “protective effects” of being near bodies of water were especially noteworthy among women and older adults.
In fact, just the sounds of bodies of water can help to reduce stress, according to a 2013 study. Get yourself within earshot of a lake, river or ocean, and you can immediately feel better.
Igniting Your "Blue Mind"
Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind, knows all of this information well. His bestselling book looks at the scientific reasons why being in, on or under the water can make us happier and healthier.
"Simply the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness by lowering cortisol, increasing serotonin, and inducing relaxation," said Nichols.
In fact, he says, when it comes to reducing stress, being on a boat can be considered a type of medicine.
"Blue mind is when we disconnect and logout," Nichols continues. "We move away from the screens and we get out on the water, and leave all of that technology and information behind. We give our brains a break—and our brains love that."
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The Power of Sunlight and Vitamin-D
In late-April, during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security also released a study related to the life cycle of the virus on non-living surfaces. The study detailed the anticipated times the virus can survive on surfaces given variations in temperature, humidity, and exposure to sunlight.
In the end, the results concluded that the virus would die in approximately two minutes at a temperature above 70 degrees Fahrenheit with relative humidity at 80% and direct exposure to sunlight—which is good news for boaters. Particularly those interested in alternatives to boat ownership like boat rentals, peer-to-peer boat sharing, and boat clubs, this type of science shows that any concerns about exposure from prior renters in addition to new cleaning guidelines boat clubs and rentals are following should be minimal (and if you want to rent a boat or join a club this summer, check out our guide on Boat Rentals & Boat Clubs: What to Know During COVID-19).
So, the science is clear: Boating is good for your health and mind. Get out there, as soon and as often as you can. The water, and reduced stress, are awaiting you.
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