I’ll write this post in English since I believe there is some interest among our international surfer friends. But this is also a post for my Swedish readers who love when I write about hormones etc (use google translate if you need)
Being in the ocean, and especially surfing, is one of the healthiest thing you could do. This is why:
The ocean contains serious amounts of important minerals, such as selenium, iodine and magnesium. Minerals which are scarce in our food today due to over cultivation, fertilization etc of the land where we live and grow our food. The skin absorbs substances, exactly what and to what extent is still not clear, but the skin is permeable, many drugs for example are delivered as patches through the skin. Indeed, a study showed that Epsom salts (magnesium salt) in the bath is an efficient way of raising levels of magnesium in the blood. A 15 minute bath at 40ºC with a 1% solution of Epsom salts caused significant rises in plasma magnesium and sulphate levels together with an increase in magnesium excretion in the urine.
And if you don’t believe in skin absorption – trust me, surfers swallow a whole lot of water too 🙂
- Sun and Vitamin D
I don’t think I’ll have to explain this one. Everyone knows that being outdoors in the sun makes your skin produce the crucial vitamin and pro hormone vitamin D. Very important for your immune system and other functions in your body
- Daylight and Serotonin
Daylight stimulates your body’s excretion of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. And not only does this transmitter make you feel good, it is also converted into melatonin when the sun sets – the hormone responsible for your sleep
Have you ever seen a surfer with really poor posture? Most people today get bad postures from sitting at their desk too much. They slouch/hunch over -getting strong, but short, muscles on their front side and weak muscles on their back. Surfing strengthens your back muscles, pulling your shoulders back and giving you a great posture
- Nature and stress relief
Being in nature, which the ocean really is, has been proven to be very healthy and stress relieving. See example of study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20163905
And seeing animals like dolphins, turtles or seals really does release some feel good substances in your body
- Social interaction
Surfing is more social than you would think. And a social life is highly important to your health. In one study loneliness was even associated with the metabolic syndrome (overweight, diabetes etc) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20836610 and all the longest lived people on the planet are prioritizing social engagement
- Fun and laughter
Enjoying yourself makes your body release a whole bunch of ”feel good” substances. And surfing has been voted to be the most enjoyable sport in the world. This means that you will cope with stress better, reduce risk of heart attack and experience less pain. In one study (as an example of laughters importance to your health) participants’ blood flow dropped by 35 percent after watching the stress-inducing films, but rose by 22 percent following the more humorous material.
- Strength and pain prevention
Surfing is excellent strengthening exercise. It thereby protects you from both pain and osteoarthritis. Building muscles also increases your basal metabolism – making you burn more calories even when resting. Furthermore, like other training it makes your body release endorphins so that you feel good!
- Endurance and disease prevention
Surfing is also great for endurance. And endurance training prevents heart disease and increases your body’s ability to burn fat. It also prevents diabetes through improving your insulin sensitivity.
- Mental strength and stress relief
When surfing you can’t focus on anything but the waves. You let go of work issues and worries. Ryan Pittsinger studied the link between surfing and mental health and found that just 30 minutes of riding waves significantly decreased negative feelings. At the same time you get mentally strong. The most important ability in surfing is to be able to assess a wave in just a second. This definitely sharpens your mind!
- Feelgood by dopamine
We feel good by surfing from chemical substances in the body such as endorphins, adrenalin and serotonin. But surfing also releases dopamine, the substance of the body’s reward system that is responsible for most addictive behaviors. Sugar and drug addiction is connected to the urge for more dopamine. But the rush, kick and anticipation you are given from surfing also releases dopamine. So why not use surfing instead of sugar and drugs?
- Parasympathetic nerve stimulation
And an extra number twelve for us living in the north. Even wearing a thick wetsuit – when the cold water hits your face, the vagal nerve is stimulated. The vagus nerve supplies parasympathetic nerve connections to all the organs. This means that the vagus nerve is responsible for example for heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating etc. To explain this further, the parasympathetic nervous system is part of the unconscious/autonomic nervous system. While the sympathetic system mobilizes the fight-or-flight response (i.e. stress), the parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of rest-and-digest activities. I.e. the cold water hitting your face, stimulates a parasympathetic response and signals that the body is at rest – stress relief again!
Don’t find the exact study I’ve once read, but this one indicates the same http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1176377
So get out in the ocean – surf, swim, snorkel and enjoy yourself while improving your health!