Fishing doesn’t always get the best press.
For all Robson Green’s extreme shark-hunting, the general image is that the pastime is a bit staid, a bit boring, and generally a bit pointless.
But this view of fishing is a red herring. Angling is far from all those things, as ITV4 series, The Big Fish Off, hopes to prove over the next few weeks.
The five-part show started last week and sees celebrities ranging from the aptly named David Seaman to Ollie Locke of Made in Chelsea fame do battle in an assortment of fishing challenges.
But no matter who catches the biggest fish, they’ll all be winners, because just whiling away a few hours on the riverbank brings these health benefits…
Fishing increases your Vitamin D
It doesn’t have to be sunny while you angle, simply being outside will help your body top up its critical Vitamin D reserves. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, keeping your bones and teeth healthy, and has also been linked to helping battle depression.
Ups your concentration
Being outside also improves your ability to concentrate, according to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Walking in nature or simply spending time under leafy trees prompts “electrochemical changes in the brain” which lead to a “highly beneficial state of effortless attention”.
Lowers your stress
Surveys of keen anglers have found that their main motivation is not just about what they might catch, but about what they can leave behind. Nearly 90% said escaping crowds was their ultimate goal, and there are now even charities supporting the power of fishing to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
Helps your heart
OK, this one does slightly depend on you hooking a prize specimen, but if you do catch something, you’ve got yourself a low-fat meal that’s packed with blood pressure-lowering and heart disease-reducing Omega-3 fatty acids.
Angling keeps you fit
It might look like a lot of sitting around but a good fishing session can be very good exercise, toning your arms, and burning between 250 calories if you’re just sitting and 500 calories if you’re angling in waders.
It gives you a challenge and perspective. Like any sport, fishing helps fill that basic human desire for purpose. “Fishing, like many outdoor activities or farming practices, puts you at one with nature. You’re the hunter, the provider,” says Lucy Downing of Visit North Norfolk.
“You belong and have a purpose. In all, fishing takes you back to the very essence of humanity – giving you a sense of place in the world.”
Fishing boosts friendship
While there is no specific scientific formula for what makes a good male bonding activity, one that includes hunting things, buying lots of kit and having an excuse to drink a few beers is probably as good as you’ll get.
Certainly, a National Angling Survey a few years ago revealed over 38% of anglers were introduced to fishing by a parent, 19% by another family member and 26.6% by a friend, suggesting that familial and friendship groups are vital for the development of angling participation.
And yes, of course women go fishing too, but the same survey had a response rate that was 97% male.