Sea kayaking for health and wellbeing

Sea kayaking for health and wellbeing

Growing up near wide, white beaches in northern Denmark left an indelible mark on Lisbeth Lund who turned to sea kayaking for a key study into health and wellbeing.

The University of Cumbria masters’ student hopes her experiences paddling around Barra in the Outer Hebrides will help aid a western world suffering a raft of medical and lifestyle related conditions.

The mother of a two-year-old son said the benefits of outdoor recreation were well-known, but more needed to be done to test the links between physical and mental welfare.

She explained: “Sea kayaking is an excellent way of understanding how we can relate to the natural world, with significant advantages to the way we act and feel.

“Yet, how sea-based adventures can contribute to health, happiness and understanding is little understood and valued.

“Considering fast-emerging global fitness trends, commercial competitive sports and mega events, often uncritically adopted as health enhancing and good for society, I felt specific research was needed.

“My eyes were opened to the potential of sea kayaking while working with outdoor instructors in New Zealand and saw the impact not just on individuals, but on society and the environment too.”

Ms Lund, who studies at UoC’s Ambleside campus, shared her findings with worldwide delegates at an international adventure conference in Dumfries, which focused on 17 UN sustainable development goals.

She explained: “I have grown-up loving the sea, it was my childhood, with nature all around. It has had a major impact on my life.

“However, my research has gone well beyond exercise, beautiful scenery and the feel-good factor. It looked at both the positive and challenging experiences uniquely linked to sea kayaking.

“The direct interplay with the water’s ebbs and flows, constantly changing conditions and views, as well as the physical and emotional influences, makes you rereconnect with your body.

“That doesn’t mean you feel good all the time. Effort, commitment, hardship and pain all come into it. But, when challenging conditions are addressed, rather than avoided, you gain a sense of accomplishment.

“Life can be good and meaningful, despite struggle, but sublime experiences come with a mixed bag of emotions.”

Ms Lund, who is based in Denmark, said she hoped her research and sea kayaking experiences would benefit people suffering mental health issues, or physical impairments such as lower back conditions and chronic injuries.

She is hoping to pursue a career in adventure therapy or outdoor health projects.