The widespread benefits of living by water, whether it be a lake, river, or the ocean, are well-documented. Yet, these benefits can go unnoticed and unappreciated on a daily basis — especially in Madison, WI, where Lakes Mendota and Monona were frozen for more than 90 days this winter. Thus, to spread awareness of why people should appreciate living by the lakes in Madison, Between Two Lakes has compiled a list of 10 benefits of living by the lakes.
According to WebMD, the air near and around bodies of moving water contains negatively charged ions that can improve people's health and mood. By increasing oxygen flow to the brain, negative ions can lighten people's moods, improve alertness, and potentially protect against germs in the air.
Humans experience a wide range of health and mental health benefits by being near or in water, according to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols. Nichols believes that humans are born with a "blue mind" that naturally prefers environments close to water.
According to Nichols, just being near water can induce a "mildly meditative state" with effects such as a calmer mood, improved heart and breathing rates and lowered stress and anxiety.
In addition to the "Blue Mind" effect, Nichols said that being near water can help cognitive function by giving the brain an auditory and visual break from overstimulation.
According to Nichols, the sound of water is "far more simple" than other noises people encounter like cities, people's voices, or music, and the visual input of blue water is more simple than the typical spaces people encounter every day. Thus, being near water can provide a stimulus break that helps the brain get some downtime from the overstimulation of an average day.
When humans have a chance to get a rest from overstimulation, the brain can enter a "default mode" where the mind daydreams, has imaginative thoughts, engages in introspection and consolidates memories. According to Nichols, entering this restful state can be key to making important mental connections and having creative thoughts.
Some of the world's greatest thinkers have used water for its relaxing and creativity-inducing effects, from neurologist Oliver Sacks, who swam until he died, to Albert Einstein, who enjoyed sailing throughout his life.
Water has a high heat capacity, meaning it requires more energy to heat water up than other surfaces like soil or concrete. Thus, people who live by lakes may experience lake breezes that cool the hot air above the ground to create a more moderate climate throughout the season, particularly in early-to-mid-spring.
With an abundance of natural resources encouraging people to get active, it is no surprise that Madison was named the fittest city in America, according to data from Fitbit.
Although it almost seems too obvious to mention, living by lakes means people have both access to water activities and a natural space to exercise on land. The lakes in Madison offer water sports ranging from stand-up paddleboarding to kiteboarding, while trails like Lakeshore Path border their shorelines for walkers and runners. According to the New York Times, exercising outdoors can encourage people to work out harder and longer and may improve one's satisfaction with a workout.
Living near lakes means that residents of Madison always have a consistent and convenient source of food and drinking water.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, fish is "man's most important single source of high-quality protein," comprising 16 percent of the world's animal protein intake. With a rapidly growing world population, food shortages could start to make an impact as early as 2023, particularly in places that rely on red meat for protein, according to Sara Menker, chief executive and founder of the agricultural data and technology company Gro Intelligence. The World Resources Institution estimates that 33 countries - 14 of them in the Middle East - will be extremely stressed for water by 2040.
Meanwhile, in Madison, the city reports running "more tests than are actually required" on water quality and facilitates fishing access at over 25 fishing piers around the city.
Although food and water access may seem expected in a modern city like Madison, the lakes still serve as a necessary resource for people living here.
Water therapy can help heal injuries and strengthen muscles and joints for people with physical conditions that require rehabilitation or therapy. For example, people recovering from muscle injuries can rely on the water's buoyancy to aid in movement and relieve pain, according to Rehabpub.com. People with Parkinson's Disease can benefit from water therapy as warm water alleviates muscle tension while assisting in ease of movement.
While water therapy is typically done in a pool, having free and accessible lakes means that people who want to rehabilitate conveniently and inexpensively can help themselves recover independently.
People who own property on or near the lakes could profit from the scarcity of, and desire for, waterfront land. According to Zillow, waterfront homes in the United States are worth more than double the value of homes overall. A study conducted in New Zealand also found that the value of homes near water increases as properties get closer to the water and decreases as the view of the water becomes more distant.
According to Zillow, homes in Madison increased in value by 10 percent in the past year and are projected to increase another 4.4 percent in the next year. Buying a property by lakes can be a lucrative endeavor for those who have the time and resources to afford it.
For those fortunate enough to live within sight of the lakes, having a view of the water can be a bonus. Although most people cannot see the lakes from their room, anyone in Madison can enjoy the view of Lake Mendota from Memorial Union, College Library or James Madison Park. Whether using it as a backdrop while doing work or just enjoying nature by itself, the view of the water is a benefit of living by the lakes.