Wellness programs can include many components such as health coaching, health risk assessments, and fitness challenges, to name a few. One common element is exercise, but people are often looking for something different than just going to the gym.

Get Outdoors

Non-powered water sports are a fast-growing alternative to the gym. Kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding can be enjoyed individually or as a family and they are a great way to get exercise and experience our nation’s waterways. As an example, Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes! While some are quite small, there are bigger options, too – such as Lake Winnebago in our own backyard with over 137,000 acres and let’s not forget Lake Michigan at 307 miles long and 118 miles wide!

Although kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding are non-powered boating, they are boating nonetheless. As with many activities, there are risks – and the waterways we often enjoy can be very unforgiving. In 2015, boating fatalities increased by 2.6 percent and drowning accounted for 76 percent of all boating fatalities. Of the drowning victims, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket. Looking at boat type, open motorboats accounted for 45% of boating fatalities, while canoes and kayaks were second with 23 percent – an increase over 2014. In addition, 22 children under age 13 lost their lives in 2015 and 12 died from drowning. Of these 12 children, 10 wear not wearing life jackets!

Find a Good Life Jacket – and Wear It!

While there are many other statistics that can be examined, one fact stands out: life jackets work, but they don’t work if they aren’t worn. When operating any watercraft, including a canoe, kayak or paddle board, there must be a properly-sized life jacket on board for every person. Every state has rules on life jackets for children, so check with your local authorities. On a federal waterway, such as Lake Michigan, every child on a moving boat under age 13 must wear a life jacket if they are not in an enclosed cabin.

However, a life jacket must fit and be comfortable, so life jacket selection is important. The U.S. Coast Guard provides resources on life jacket selection. The Boat U.S. Foundation provides information on life jacket fitting, maintenance and the individual state requirements for life jackets.

When selecting a life jacket for a child, take them with you and let them help! Make it a fun event; let them help select the color and then do a test fit.

You can even get a life jacket for your pet!

So, getting back to wellness, consider adding some aspect of boating safety to your business’ employee wellness program. One way to do this is by adopting National Safety Boating (NSBW) week, which is May 20-26, 2017. Using the resources provided by the North American Safe Boating Campaign, download press releases to email to employees or print a life jacket selection poster to display in break and lunch rooms.

Looking for more information on boating safety? Don’t miss these blogs:

-Tim Hoffmann