Blue health. We’ve all heard of it, and if you haven’t… well, it’s time to get acquainted. Much more than just blended spirulina, what started as a pan-European research initiative launched to investigate the links between blue spaces, climate and health has become a fast-growing movement that is dominating the wellness industry through the likes of wild swimming, forest bathing and of course, a vast array of watersports-led activities. Put simply, when it comes to the water, us Brits seem to have developed an unquenchable thirst.
Studies conducted by Blue Health researchers at the University of Exeter and published in the journal Marine Policy found that around a whopping 271 million recreational visits are made to the UK’s coasts and beaches every year, with the majority of these being for relaxation and social purposes.
The study also found that paddling took place on a quarter of these jaunts - which equates to around 40 million dips a year. With blue spaces proven to deliver significant benefits to both our physical and mental health (and what’s more, being accessible to almost anyone regardless of their socio-economic status) life really is a beach for us Brits.
It’s not just a quick paddle we enjoy (dodging algae and pretending not to grimace at the water’s temperature) but a plethora of other wellness-led activities have risen from our Blue Health fascination like the Loch Ness monster herself.
Unique and fun ways to workout in an aquatic environment are spreading like wildfire, especially in summer. Earlier this month, London’s Canary Wharf unveiled its first open water swimming venue, offering residents, visitors and workers alike the opportunity to practice their strokes in the Middle Dock waters and explore a 600 metre course alongside views of the iconic One Canada Square and Newfoundland.
A low-impact activity, aquatic exercise is fantastic for the body too - it takes pressure off your bones and joints, making it ideal for injured runners or athletes whilst boosting heart health alongside. Water also offers natural resistance, which in turn can help strengthen your muscles.
The ways to exercise a la aqua are becoming endless - we can test our balancing skills out with yoga on paddleboards, cruise along cliffs with intrepid SUP (stand up paddling) tours and even take on a HIIT challenge in the pool (yes, really). And if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, we’ve found the perfect ways to do so:
Four unusual ways to workout on the water
1 SUP Yoga
Break away from Bikram and say adios to Ashtanga - it’s time to try your hand (and legs) at SUP Yoga, with locations available across the entire country. A series of yoga postures on tethered standup paddle boards, in this fun class the traditional yoga mat is replaced with a board for a more intense session. Benefiting both the mind and body, expect your balance to improve tenfold as well as your yoga performance. And after all, falling in from time to time is all part of the fun!
2 FloatFit HIIT
A group exercise class that takes place in pools, FloatFit uses the world’s first inflatable floating exercise mat: the AquaBase. This unusual piece of kit is designed to stay static (unlike a paddle board that moves) whilst you give it your best shot on the unstable platform. The focus here is on timing – brief bursts of high intensity exercises for a short time followed by a rest or active rest.
Superb for your core, except a challenging but fully rewarding workout that incorporates traditional HIIT-style exercises such as Squats, Burpees, Sit Ups and Mountain Climbers. Having taken London (and the rest of the UK) by storm, try it at a number of locations such as Soho’s Haymarket hotel - where regular FloatFit HIIT events are often followed by a delicious brunch too.
3 Underwater Cycling
Leave the lululemon gear at home and swap your usual spin session for Cycl’H2O®, a class specially curated to boost fitness while sculpting your entire body.
This 45-minute class combines high intensity aquabiking and circuit training with the added resistance of the water for a full-body, fully refreshed workout that boasts a burn of up to 800 calories per hour. Ideal for Londonders, find regular classes in the likes of Victoria, Fulham and Royal Victoria Dock.
The word on Watsu. If you’re more partial to a slower pace of life, make a mecca to Picadilly for Hotel Café Royal’s Akasha Spa, which is home to London’s first-ever Watsu pool. A form of water therapy, this hydrotherapy treatment involves gentle stretches, massages and acupressure in pleasantly warm 35°C water.
A name derived from the words “water” and “shiatsu” (a type of traditional Japanese massage) this unique experience is used to alleviate pain and discomfort - making it perfect for a recovery session in the completely private pool. We’ve never been more ready to lap it up.
PLUS: No aquatic expedition would be complete without a La Pochette wet bag, of course. Here’s three beautiful ways to pack your swimmers:
Words by Sophie Ritchie