Bird Watching for Heart Health

Social distancing and lockdowns due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have left our streets feeling deserted. But there's still an abundance of life around us. Bird watching is an excellent way to pass the time; it's a highly rewarding activity that's easy to get into and there's evidence that it could improve heart health as well. 

Whether you're looking out of your kitchen window, walking through a park or trekking up a mountain; there's always at least one bird to be spotted. Britain is home to around 500 species of birds, ranging from the common pigeon to the extremely scarce red-necked grebe. Here's how you can get involved with this relaxing, heart-healthy hobby.

Bird watching, known colloquially as birding, is more common that you might think. It's estimated that more than 3 million Britons go birdwatching each year and the boredom of being confined indoors has significantly increased its popularity, according to the RSPB1. Now more than ever, people are looking for new ways to stay physically and mentally active, without spending money or socialising.

Our mood and mental health has a significant impact on our hearts. Stress, anxiety and depression are all implicated in poor heart health. Bird watching can help to reduce stress and anxiety – there's a surprising link between the number of birds people see in the afternoon and their mental health2. Simply being in nature is good for you mind and body – a recent study found that walking in nature for at least 2 hours per week dramatically increased a person's chances of being in good health3. Bird watching is an excellent excuse to explore the environment around you, by visiting forests, parks and other green spaces.

Some people try to spot specific species of birds, while others are content with watching any wildlife that they stumble upon. How and when you go bird watching is entirely your choice. You can watch wildlife throughout the year and after a while you will develop a keen eye for the species around you. There are numerous handbooks and mobile phone apps to help you identify birds, many of which are completely free. You don't need any specialist equipment to start bird watching, although a pair of binoculars might come in handy.

If you can, try to get outside and view birds in their natural habitats. Walking is a low-intensity exercise that's great for heart health. Getting at least 150 minutes of exercise every week can lower your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Regular physical activity can also help to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two common risk factors for developing coronary heart disease4.

But bird watching isn't just good for us; it can help the birds as well. The general public play a vital role is monitoring the UK's wildlife. If you spot a rare species, or a bird that isn't local to your area, get in touch with the RSPB or Bird Watch UK. These important organisations rely on amateur and professional bird watchers to track species and if you've spotted an unusual bird in your area, they may send out a team to have a closer look. If you're out in the countryside, keep to public footpaths, byways and bridleways and never enter private land without the landowner's permission. Don't interfere with any wildlife to see; some bird species are protected by law and touching them can land you in hot water.

Staying healthy is balancing act; your body needs a healthy diet, adequate exercise and replenishing sleep to stay in shape. It can be hard to get each of these, especially during these stressful times. To help support your heart, we've developed Kwai Heartcare+ with Japanese Black Garlic. Its unique formulation combines heart-supporting Vitamin B1 with Japanese Black Garlic, a potent source of heart-healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.

1 https://www.ft.com/content/51f9520b-2677-4c2e-aa45-fa16cc6bf3b2 (Couldn't find a direct source from the RSPB, sourced via the FT)

2 https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wildlife/countryside/news/a2018/birdwatching-lower-stress-improve-mental-health/#:~:text=In%20early%202017%2C%20researchers%20from,of%20anxiety%2C%20stress%20and%20depression.

3 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3

4 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/