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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Identifying the health and well-being benefits of recreational fishing

Recreational fishing is a popular form of outdoor recreation enjoyed by Australians. Participation rates have been extrapolated to show that approximately 25% of Australian households consist of at least one member who participates in recreational fishing; and on average each of these households contains two recreational fishers (Henry & Lyle 2003). Recreational fishing is one of the few forms of nature-based recreation that can be enjoyed throughout childhood, adolescence, adulthood and into the senior years. Of recreational fishers aged 50 years and over, 75% have been fishing for longer than 30 years amassing a wealth of skills, techniques and knowledge build over the years of participation.

A major health concern in Australia is that the level of physical activity in children and adolescents is decreasing, with electronic media and other sedentary behaviours replacing outdoor activities. One study revealed that 37% of children aged 10 to 12 years spend less than half an hour a day playing outside after school and 43% spend more than two hours a day using electronic media (Wen, Kite et al. 2009). The lack of physical activity associated with the replacement of outdoor play with electronic leisure, places children at a greater risk for obesity and related adverse health effects. Research has shown that there is an urgent need to provide outdoor social opportunities and activities for children aged up to five years to encourage habitual healthy behaviours. Furthermore, parental (or adult) encouragement, supervision and participation are essential for long-term behaviour change (Cleland, Timperio et al. 2009).

The study found the strongest areas of evidence related to youth development, breast cancer recovery, positive mental health outcomes, recreation for the disabled and participation as a sport. There were programs and events run throughout Australia allowing children the opportunity to fish. Each of these initiatives focussed on education and environmental awareness. Classroom materials and lessons were also available to support learning outcomes. In many cases, fishing was used as an incentive to deter antisocial behaviour with excellent results. Recreational fishing gave children who did not find classroom social dynamics easy, the opportunity to shine and to form friendships outside their own school. For example, older children had the opportunity to mentor younger children which increased their own self-efficacy and self-confidence. Of great interest are the findings that hyperactive children were seen to sit quietly by the water for long periods of time and uncommunicative children vocally expressed that they want to fish.

In summary, this study found that considerable health and well-being benefits can be gained through involvement in recreational fishing. Encouraging young children, youth, adults and families to fish offers a cost effective and healthful outdoor recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout life. Benefits were evident for individuals and groups. Recreational fishing was also noted to provide significant benefits to children and youth with behavioural and mental health issues. Finally, educational strategies that focus on how to minimise the environmental impacts of recreational fishing can ensure today‘s and tomorrow‘s recreational fishers are aware of sustainable fishing practices.

1 comment:

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