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Are you ready to go face down in the water and cut off your access to oxygen – except through a tube? Then snorkeling is for you!
It’s not as scary as we made it sound, but it does take some getting used to. That getting used to, the way you breathe, and propelling yourself through the water lead to some great health benefits.
Learn what snorkeling can do for your body below!
Doesn’t it seem a little backward that while your face is in the water and you can’t breathe naturally, you’re getting better at it? Yes, snorkeling makes you better at one of our top three life activities: breathing.
But how? Well, it comes down to the science of deep breathing and a sprinkle of meditation. Breathing through a tube or a mask like The Ninja Shark takes some concentration.
You need to put, not effort, but awareness into taking each breath. The awareness can change your entire body – not to mention your mind.
Before we get into the hippie meditation benefits, let’s talk about your lung capacity.
When you breathe out through a snorkel, it’s more forceful than it’d be in everyday life. This causes your lungs to empty out more than they would on land. You then have to take a deeper breath, because you emptied out more of your lung cavity.
This is called breath conditioning and it’s the reason athletes train at high altitudes. The better you can breathe in tricky situations (like with less oxygen or in the water) the better you can do it on land!
If you want to get a closer look at something while you’re snorkeling, you need to hold your breath and dive down. That dive is harder on your body since you’re holding in oxygen.
It conditions and strengthens the muscles more than it would if you had a constant stream of air.
2. Muscle Work
Any activity that isn’t sitting still or standing still makes some sort of muscle movement. Swimming is no different. Especially swimming where you have to propel yourself and stay afloat.
Though you have a life jacket on, you could let your feet dangle down into the water. But you don’t.
The surface area of your flippers helps, but you have to use your core strength to hold your legs in line with your body. You probably won’t even notice you’re doing it – but you are!
That core tightening increases the calorie burn of every other motion you do while you’re snorkeling. You have to kick your legs to propel – that’s exercise.
Moving your arms to navigate? That’s exercise too. With the core support, it’s like you’re doing all that and a half on top of it.
On that note, an average weight person (for their height and stature) can burn around 300 calories in an hour of snorkeling. Who said cardio couldn’t be fun?
3. Cardiovascular Health
All that time spent exercising as we talked about in the point above, is good for your heart! When you increase your heart rate (happens during movement) you strengthen your heart muscle.
That’s why, if you try to run too fast or over-do a cardio movement, it feels like your heart is straining.
The movement and heart muscle engagement, along with lung capacity aid your heart. With more power and more oxygen, it can pump more nutrients around your body.
All of these things combined help you stay away from life-threatening problems like heart disease and heart failure, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. As long as you have the fuel to sustain it, burning calories is usually a good thing!
4. Joint Mobility
Another benefit of snorkeling is that it’s exercise, without impact. When you do on-land activities like running or jumping, it sends waves through your joints.
We call these rebounds. You know the sound a basketball makes when you slam it on the ground? It kind of vibrates? That’s what happens through your body.
This is harmful to your joints – which are basically complex water balloons. The space between two bones (a joint) has tendons holding the bones in place and attaching them to muscle.
The empty space in the middle fills with joint fluid- which keeps the bones from hitting each other. The more hard impact activity you do, the less joint fluid you’ll have over time.
That’s why you see so many elderly people (joint fluid lessens with age) in low-impact activities like walking or swim aerobics.
With that kinesiology lesson out of the way, we can talk about what snorkeling means for your joints. Basically? It gives them a break! The buoyancy of the water keeps the movement from rebounding through your body.
Your joints get a break but you still exercise. Everyone wins!
5. Weight Loss
If you’re snorkeling for a few hours on vacation, you won’t magically drop pounds. Like anything, you have to do an activity consistently before you see results.
But, snorkeling does burn calories, which leads to weight loss. If you’re next to the beach and have the ability to snorkel for an hour or so every day, that can count as your cardio!
It’s more likely that you do it for a few hours on vacation, not every day. If you’re trying to lose weight in your non-vacation life, it’s smart to find ways to stay active on vacation.
Plan a fun activity every day or every other that gets your body moving. Snorkeling is a family-friendly option that supports weight loss and keeps kids from bouncing off the hotel walls!
6. Mental Health
Remember way back in number one where we talked about how snorkeling aids breathing? And we mentioned there were some “hippie” benefits? We’re about to get into them.
The mask changes the way you breathe, so you have to be more aware of your breath.
Being aware of something your body can do on its own is part of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is when you bring yourself to the current moment, without thinking about the past or the future. It’s like meditating, but you can have your eyes open and look at cool fish at the same time.
Meditating or engaging in mindfulness practices can reduce stress and help you sleep. There’s even some data that shows it can help you live longer.
There’s a reason you feel like you’re in a trance when you’re underwater. It’s not just water in your ears – you’re tuned in to your surroundings!
7. Helps Overcome Fears
Have you always wanted to dive down deep into the ocean, but you’re too scared? Snorkeling is a good first step, that will ease your anxiety and show you there’s nothing to fear in the water.
Getting used to the mask and breathing through a tube will prepare you for an oxygen tank. The less you freak out the first time you dive, the safer you’ll be!
8. Vitamin D
Everyone needs a dose of vitamin D, an essential nutrient for happiness, among other things. The easiest way for humans to absorb vitamin D is through the sun.
When you’re out on a boat, lounging in the sun, or floating in the water with the sun on your back – you’re getting a dose of vitamin D.
9. Pain Relief
If you have chronic muscle or joint pain, you may experience pain relief while you’re in the water. The results could last for a few hours after if you’re lucky.
Since the water and your life vest are holding you up, your body can let go of some of the tension it uses keeping you upright. You’re floating in the water, so your pain can float away!
10. It’s Fun
Yes, there are health benefits to having fun. When you’re smiling and generally happy, your body is in homeostasis. It releases endorphins that surge through your body, making you happy on a chemical level.
When you’re happy and you’re around others, it makes them more excited to connect with you. Human connection has health benefits as powerful as meditation, which we got into above.
The more fun you and your family have, the better mood you’ll be in for the rest of the day!
If you’re planning a trip to a tropical location, you definitely need to plan some (safe) time snorkeling face down in the water. You’ll get some lung exercise, strengthen your heart, and make everyone happier all around.
You can work off some of your vacation food and drinks in the water, while you have fun and learn about underwater life.
For more information about health benefits you hadn’t thought of check out this page.