Photo of a CanalAbility canal boat on the river with green trees lining the banks. There are four people at the back (stern) of the boat.


Prioritising both your mental and physical health is equally essential, contributing significantly to a well-rounded, healthy, and satisfying life. Waterways, such as canals and rivers, are not merely bodies of water; they also host an abundance of trees and plants. The positive impact on mental well-being is likely a result of the various benefits linked to both green and blue spaces. Exploring our canals, rivers and immersing yourself in nature can offer ways to enhance your mental well-being.

Canals on Prescription 

The Canal and River Trust are the charity who look after, and bring to life, 2,000 miles of waterways in the UK. They conducted research which shows that spending time by water promotes better mental and physical wellbeing. The Trust also revealed that canal walks are being prescribed by GP’s to combat depression. Here’s Dr Phillipa Moreton who actively ‘prescribes’ a walk on the waterways to feel better:


Wallace J. Nicols, an inspirational marine biologist, has written a book entitled ‘Blue Mind’ which looks at why water makes us happy. His book suggests that even a glimpse of a photograph of a river will have a positive effect on our mood.  

Connecting with nature 

Connecting with nature is not only enjoyable, it can also have positive benefits to our mental health.

According to a study by MIND, the mental health charity, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed and anxious to more calm and balanced. 

In another study by Andrea Taylor, research on children with ADHD shows that time spent in nature increases their attention span. 

Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

 How can canal boating help? 

According to the NHS website, evidence suggests there are 5 steps to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Applying these when spending time onboard a canal boat is easy:

Young lady with Down Syn steering a canal boat with a male CanalAbility voluteer assisting.

1. Connect with other people

It’s important to maintain good relationships for your mental wellbeing so why not enjoy life in the slow lane and take time out to spend with friends and family. There is no better way to cast off your worries, silence our mobile phone, and enjoy a truly peaceful meander along the waterways.   

2. Be physically active

Our boats are specially adapted for people with disabilities so everyone can take part in the boating experience from steering the boat to working the locks.

 3. Learn new skills

Our volunteer crew will show you how to steer the boat and work the locks, everyone is encouraged to take part.

All female crew

4. Give to others

Research has shown that acts of kindness and giving can help improve mental wellbeing- why not volunteer for us and give something back to your local community! 

We offer many volunteer opportunities, whether that is to skipper the boats; helping out with administration; lending a hand at events or maintaining the boats.  Find out how you can join our friendly team here.

 5. Mindfulness- paying attention to the present moment 

What better way to be ‘in the moment’ than onboard a canal boat.

For people with a range of dementia related illnesses, simply enjoying the sensation of the sun or wind on their face can be a positive experience and invoke memories.

Why not contact us to find out how we can help you with your very own adapted canal boat day trip experience!