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Healthy Aging | 08/4/21
An afternoon of sailing may be a pleasant way to pass some leisure time, but it’s also a surprisingly effective way to boost your health! The simple joy of sailing can lift your spirits. That’s a win for your mental health, but there are numerous physical health benefits of sailing for seniors, too.
It may not be a magic youth elixir, but the evidence is strong that sailing helps ward off the effects of aging to keep you feeling strong and vibrant.
Your metabolism may be naturally predisposed to slow as you age, but you can trick it into a higher gear with exercise. Researchers at Harvard say endurance exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing can increase your metabolism while trimming body fat, regulating insulin and lowering blood sugar levels. You may associate common activities like walking, jogging, swimming or aerobics with endurance training, but you can achieve many of the same benefits from the physical tasks involved in sailing, like repeatedly hoisting and trimming sails.
Many of the same activities that rev your metabolism are good for your heart, too. Exercise that raises your heart rate pumps more blood through your veins. That improved circulation can help reduce blockages, which in turn means better heart health and a lower risk of heart attacks and other heart-related conditions. The increased blood flow also means you’re depositing more oxygen throughout your body, so it’s even more reason to savor the air above the sea.
If you’ve ever noticed that you feel calmer near the water, you’re not alone. Studies prove that spending time on or near the water is good for the soul. From the steady rocking of the boat to the gentle lull of waves lapping at the hull, a day on the water is a sensory journey toward inner peace. In fact, simply stepping away from your daily routine to focus on an activity you enjoy can help reduce stress and ensure you’re making time to fully enjoy your retirement. Remember, lower stress levels are good for your body and your mind, which means the health benefits of sailing for seniors just keep multiplying.
Finding your sea legs may keep you from going overboard, but the core muscles you use to keep your balance on deck are plenty useful away from the ocean, too. Falls are extremely common among seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one of every five falls among seniors results in a serious injury, like a broken bone or head injury. Although strength training is an important step in fall prevention, so is achieving better balance. Your sense of balance only gets stronger the more you put it to the test, especially when you’re engaging your brain and muscles simultaneously through a physically demanding activity like sailing.
Similarly, spatial awareness, which is essential when maneuvering a boat, is another health benefit of sailing that helps you avoid injury. Understanding the relationship between objects, distance and orientation contributes to your sense of personal balance, keeping you upright and steady on your feet. It also comes into play as you move through your daily life, whether you’re traveling from one room to the next or driving a vehicle.
The sunshine you soak up while sailing is another health benefit of sailing. Over the years, your bones lose density and become more brittle. While this is normal to some degree for everyone, women are especially at risk of developing osteoporosis, in which bones are especially weak and vulnerable to fractures. Exposure to the sun triggers the body to produce Vitamin D, which plays an important role in bone health and promotes calcium absorption. While you’re catching some rays in the name of better bone health, remember your sunscreen and protective eyewear to reduce your risk of skin damage and eye strain from the harsh sun rays.
What’s more, studies show exercises that build strength, like pulling lines when sailing, contribute to stronger muscles, providing extra support to your skeletal system while reducing bone loss and even strengthening bones.
Whether you’ve spent time around boats since your youth or you’re new to the sport, sailing is a hobby to keep you physically and mentally active to slow the hands of time.
You’ll find plenty of others who share your zest for life at The Moorings at Lewes, a Life Plan Community (also known as a continuing care retirement community), located near the Delaware shore. Make plans to visit and learn more about the active lifestyle and nearby community, where you’ll find ample opportunities to reel in more health benefits of sailing.