How many things are more enjoyable than spending a day on the water chasing your favorite game fish? Over 30 million people do just that in the U.S. alone. But another, more sobering statistic, goes right along with it. 100 million Americans, or 11% of the population, will suffer chronic pain of the back and/or joints at some point during their lifetime. A lot of those people fish. And the worst part of the whole issue is that fishing can cause and/or aggravate a lot of these issues.
Fishing is a physical activity. You may think you are just sitting on the bank holding a rod. But in reality you are also loading and unloading equipment in the car, twisting, bending, pulling, walking, etc. This is interspersed with long periods of relative inactivity sitting in the same position for extended periods of time…. not a good combination. Some pain may be inevitable. As we get older most of us will experience stiffness and pain in the joints. But there are things we can do to lessen the effects, and make fishing more enjoyable.
You may be thinking, “Well, I only fish once or twice a month, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem”. You would be wrong. Infrequent activity is harder on your body than regular activity. You don’t have to do 100 push-ups every day, but a little daily stretching will do wonders for you. It is not necessary to be in world-class shape to fish. As a rule, fishing will not be as grueling as a triathlon, or riding the Tour de France. Just staying in reasonable shape for your age is enough.
Being significantly overweight puts a lot of extra stress on your feet and back so dropping a few pounds can make a difference. But the most important thing is to stay stretched especially before getting into a boat. You should do mild stretching every morning and even during the day whenever you begin to feel stiff. Make sure that when you lift anything, you always use your legs to lift and not your back no matter how light you think the object is. Contrary to popular belief it doesn’t take that much weight for you to be hurt if you lift improperly. As little as 15 lbs. can lay you up under the right conditions.
Take breaks often. Set your rod down for a minute or two out of every hour and walk around, stretch, do a few deep knee bends, etc. In a boat, stand up if possible and stretch. If you are in a canoe or kayak, every few hours pull into the shore and get out for a few minutes and stretch. It will do wonders for your back.
Another thing that can cause back and knee pain is wearing the wrong or no shoes. We are all guilty of this at one time or another but the real truth is that your favorite flip-flops have absolutely no arch support. Those old lucky boat shoes are just as bad. And let’s not even talk about sandals. On the good side, there are some companies that are making fishing shoes and sandals with better arch support. You can always spring for a pair of Dr. Scholls arch support inserts for you favorite shoes. Fly fishing anglers have the advantage here since they spend most of their time on the water wading. Still, it doesn’t hurt to stretch your back once in awhile and be careful bending over to net your catch.
By taking just a few extra minutes out of your day for a little stretching, and some mild common-sense, healthy habits, you will be able to enjoy a lot more years fishing your favorite waters.