Health Benefits of Fishing: Good for Body and Mind
Sep 2, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

You may know fishing as a hobby, a way to unwind, or just put food on the table. But did you know that it’s seriously good for your health? From your physical wellbeing to your mental state, the health benefits of fishing are so great and varied that it’s tough to truly appreciate.

A fly fisherman standing at the front of a boat with shallow flats and sea grasses extending into the distance

In fact, fishing is one of the healthiest hobbies out there. Big words, we know, and we’re ready to back them up. To prove we’re not just telling a fish tale, we’re delving into the science behind angling’s effect on the body and mind. Some of it’s obvious, but other parts surprised even us!

Physical Benefits of Fishing

There are as many ways to fish as there are species to catch. However, most of them have a few key things in common: you’re out in the open, reeling in fish and maybe taking some home for dinner. This might not sound like much, but it can have a real impact on your health. Here’s why.

Get Some Exercise

A female angler fighting a big fish on a boat, with another angler standing behind her

Staying fit isn’t easy. Modern life means more and more time at our computers, and less time than ever being active. Because of this, only one 1 in 5 Americans gets the recommended amount of exercise. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer worldwide. It’s a serious problem.

Now, fishing may not seem like much of a workout, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s low-impact cardio that can be as active or easy-going as you want. More importantly, you can build up your fitness level from zero without overstraining your body – or ever stepping foot in a gym!

A kayak angler fishing near Dana Point, CA

Head down to the local pond and reel in a couple of fish. Once you get the hang of that, try more active techniques like jigging or fly fishing. Up for a challenge? Hike out for a hard day’s wade fishing or jump in a kayak for a full-body workout. Heck, just balancing on a boat is great for your core strength – let alone fighting fish while you’re at it!

In short, you can view fishing as a lifelong training program. Start on the ground floor or jump straight into the action. Either way, it’s a fun way to work up a sweat that anyone can enjoy.

Clean Out Your Lungs

A man sitting and breathing deeply by the side of a rushing river

Air pollution has all sorts of terrible effects on your body. It can cause everything from breathing problems to heart disease and it kills almost 90,000 people a year in the US alone. Small wonder, considering half of the country lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

But wait, how is fishing supposed to help this? Well, spending some time out in nature gives you an injection of clean, oxygen-rich air. Couple that with a bit of exercise to get your breathing up, and your lungs will feel better than they have in ages.

a woman in a bikini sitting at the front of a boat, with tall rocks in the distance

Being around water is especially good for you. This is because moving water produces negative ions, tiny charged particles that have been shown to boost the immune system, increase metabolism, and regulate your sleep patterns. They also do wonders for your mood, but more on that later.

Of course, we’re not saying that a couple of hours at sea are going to work miracles. However, regular doses of fresh air can help your breathing and give your body a chance to recover.

Feel the Sun on Your Face

An angler facing the sun and reeling in a fish on a tiled fishing pier.

Nothing beats the feeling of the morning sun on your face. That warming dose of vitamin D is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. More than that, it boosts your immune system, speeds up healing, and lets you digest calcium properly – essential for strong bones and teeth.

Alright, we all know what vitamin D is and we know how to get it. Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend anywhere near enough time outdoors – even before 2020. The average American is only outside for 7.6% of the day, while for people in the UK it’s more like 2.6% – just over half an hour!

a lone fly fisherman casting while wading in a lake

That doesn’t tell the whole tale, though. Most of our time outdoors is spent in built-up areas or in the evening, neither of which are known for their sunshine. It’s no wonder cases of diseases like rickets have seen a dramatic rise over the last 20 years.

The answer? Get down to the water and start fishing. You’ll be spending a prolonged period of time in an open space, giving you a healthy dose of rays. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, especially with all that beautiful sunlight bouncing off the water.

Eat Healthily

A healthy meal of grilled fish and vegetables served on a while place on a table

We’ll be honest, the last couple of health benefits weren’t exclusive to fishing, even if wetting a line is a great way to enjoy them. However, there’s one important part of fishing that we still haven’t covered: the fish!

Fish is packed full of essential nutrients. There’s omega 3, which is good for everything from heart health to eyesight. You’ll also fill up on vitamin B12, essential for healthy nerves, blood cells, and DNA. Then there’s the protein, good cholesterol, and even an added dose of vitamin D.

A whole trout baked in foil

Of course, not all fish are equal. The healthiest hauls are oily fish like Mackerel, Salmon, and Trout. Luckily, they’re all pretty widespread catches. And just because oily fish is the best, that doesn’t mean that your local species aren’t worth eating. All fish contain much-needed nutrients with a relatively low calorie count.

And that last bit is important. All around the globe, obesity is becoming a major problem. Almost half of US adults are obese, and many more are overweight. Catching your own fish gives you an affordable source of healthy food. Just throw it in the oven with a few vegetables and you’ve got a delicious, nutritious meal.

Mental Benefits of Fishing

The physical benefits of fishing are pretty clear. However, that’s only half the picture. Angling also has miraculous effects on your mental state. Whether you’re battling depression or simply struggling to concentrate, a few hours of rod in hand could be just the ticket. Here’s why.

Combat Stress and Anxiety

A group of anglers wade fishing in shallow sea water

A lot of powerful things come together when you’re fishing. First of all, you’re in nature, which research has shown to have a massive effect on your mental wellbeing. You’re also around water, which produces a ton of mood-boosting negative ions, and has a natural meditative effect on the mind.

And that’s just the setting. The actual act of fishing comes with its fair share of perks. There’s the exercise – well-known to make you feel good. Focusing on your bait is also perfect for achieving mindfulness. Couple that with rising to and achieving a challenge and you reach a flow state – that feeling of being “in the zone,” which creates calm and fulfillment.

Two anglers sitting and fishing on the bank of a large lake

With so many benefits, you have to ask why this isn’t being tapped into by psychologists. Actually, it is. There are dozens of organizations around the world dedicated to fishing therapy. From war veterans to cancer survivors, fishing has been used to heal both body and mind for years.

Fishing therapy seems to be particularly helpful for people suffering from post-traumatic stress. Recent studies show that fishing can provide both short-term relief and long-term healing for people with PTSD. And it doesn’t end there. Angling also has great potential to help people with depression and anxiety.

Improve Concentration and Patience

A father and son fishing together on the side of a lake

Of all the ways that modern life affects our brains, none is more obvious than our short attention span. Endless apps fight for our focus with beeps, flashes, and the dreaded red dot. Most of us can hardly sit still for five minutes without subconsciously scrolling through social media. Don’t believe us? Try it.

The fact of the matter is that we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish – and it seems to be getting worse. Our brains find it hard to filter out what’s important. To concentrate on one thing for any significant amount of time. Millions of people have turned to focus-boosting apps to fix this, but there’s a much simpler solution: unplug.

A woman in an orange jacket fly fishing while wading in a stream

As we already mentioned, angling has a mindful, meditative effect on the brain. This may sound like new-age nonsense, but it’s not. Mindfulness improves your concentration, helps you focus, and can even make your brain grow.

Fishing is especially good for people with behavioral disorders like ADHD. According to a 2012 study, even a single trip can improve short-term concentration. Repeated sessions can build up a person’s attention span more permanently, helping them do better in education, work, and generally throughout their lives.

Increase Self-Esteem and Resilience

two excited anglers shaking hands after catching a fish

Nothing gives you a leg up in life like believing in yourself. Whether it’s day-to-day happiness or life-changing decisions, self-esteem is key to getting ahead in the world. Improving the way we see ourselves isn’t easy, but one proven way of doing so is to work on and succeed at a new skill.

Fishing is a perfect example of this. You head out on your first trip, maybe you get lucky, maybe you don’t. The second time, you get a feel for the basics. You start to become independent. Before you know it, you’re fishing with confidence and maybe even passing on a tip or two that you learned along the way.

A happy woman showing off the redfish she just caught, with another angler giving the thumbs up behind her

The kicker here is that you can set and achieve your own goals. Everyone has something to strive for, and it feels just as good whether it’s catching a new species or breaking the state record. You see yourself improving and start to get more ambitious. That may not sound like much, but it can really boost your self-esteem.

As always, there’s research to back this up. A 2015 study interviewed people before and after an angling summer camp. It found that they seemed much more optimistic and self-assured at the end of the fishing retreat. Importantly, the regular anglers of the group were also the most self-confident and emotionally resilient.

Build Strong Bonds

A happy family celebrating on a fishing charter

So far we’ve mainly talked about the benefits of fishing individually. However, one of the most powerful parts of the sport is the sense of community that comes with it. Young or old, man or woman – people from all walks of life can bond through fishing.

First of all, there’s the mentoring side of angling. That exchange of knowledge creates trust and mutual respect between people. The shared emotions of catching (or not catching) a fish also ground a friendship in empathy. Even something as simple as spending time in an unusual setting creates strong memories.

Two men talking to each other while fishing on a small jetty

Truth be told, that’s half the reason people go fishing. The highs, lows, and shared experiences are just as important as how many fish you catch. These are the building blocks of a strong and healthy friendship.

And of course, fishing is ideal for social distancing. You’re out in the fresh air, at a safe distance from each other, but you’re still able to make meaningful connections in a way that Skype and Zoom just can’t manage. We all need social interactions, and finding ways to socialize safely is important, now more than ever.

The Health Benefits of Fishing: No Fish Tale

Happy anglers showing off a large Bluefin Tuna

Fishing may seem like just another hobby. Maybe a slow way to get dinner. However, there’s much more going on beneath the surface. It gets you fit, provides a nutritious meal, and keeps your mind focused and calm. On top of all that, it creates strong friendships and lasting memories.

Best of all? This is something that everybody can enjoy. Sure, remote rivers and open oceans have the best bite, but you can find fishing spots even in the middle of most cities. What’s more, it’s cheap and easy to get into. There are so many benefits to fishing, and so few drawbacks. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and try it!

What do you think is the biggest benefit of fishing? Why do you do it, and how did you get into it? Tell us your stories or share your opinions in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

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