For centuries, Barbados has been reputed to be an island with healing qualities. In fact, when George Washington’s brother, Lawrence, was ill with tuberculosis in 1751, the brothers needed to stay in a veritable Caribbean Spa, and travelled to Barbados to aid with his healing process. Nearly 270 years later, the island can still boast of the benefits to both the physical and mental health for those who live or travel to its shores. There are several other outdoor activities, ranging from hiking to yoga; from sea bathing to forest bathing and the list goes on! You can engage in activities which provide intense full-body workouts, aerobic workouts or have a quiet moment of meditation. And the benefits are wide-ranging: improving mental health; rehabilitation for injuries; treatment for arthritis; muscular/body conditioning; stress-relief; cardiovascular support; vitamin D support; lowering high blood pressure and clearing sinuses. There is no need to hit the gym to stay healthy in Barbados, below are some of the activities available on the island and their benefits to your health.
While many visitors flock to various spas in Barbados, natural therapists will tell you that healing your body begins with healing your mind. As such, a Yoga retreat in the Caribbean is an ideal exercise that blends both mental and physical healing, and there are many outdoor areas which enhance the therapeutic qualities of yoga in Barbados. In addition to developing your flexibility and muscle tone, consistent training in yoga can help with improving your overall energy, balancing your metabolism, and it can help to protect you from injury. Yoga also incorporates breathing techniques. Imagine closing your eyes and deeply inhaling the fresh air that blows across Barbados, then exhaling and opening your eyes to the picturesque scenery of the ocean or a tropical garden. You probably feel relaxed and invigorated by just thinking about it! You can check out the Yoga Barbados Alliance page on Facebook for up-to-date information on yoga classes in Barbados.
Barbados is surrounded by beautiful beaches, some with calm waters (on the west coast) and others where you can find natural pools formed by nearby reefs (on the east coast). These calm waters make for the perfect natural aqua therapy experience. Swimming in these areas is, at the very least, relaxing and stress-relieving. It is an ideal place for reflecting, meditating and clearing your mind, especially while watching the magical sunsets on the West Coast. Of course, there are also physical benefits to swimming. The salt in the seawater is sure to relieve sinus issues, and because it’s a low impact exercise, swimming is an easy, natural healing/therapy for persons with muscular or skeletal conditions such as arthritis, scoliosis, etc. If you want to add some heat to your aqua therapy experience, you can join others at the Hot Pot on Brandon’s Beach where the waters are noticeably warmer.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP)
If you’re comfortable with going a bit further away from the coastline, then stand up paddle boarding may be an activity for you to try. SUP is essentially standing on a surfboard but, unlike surfing, you don’t need waves to get moving since you’re using a paddle. You get to control your own speed on the water, and you are guaranteed to have a full-body workout while you’re balancing on the board. Much like swimming, it is an excellent cardio activity which helps to burn calories without putting your body under excess strain – and it’s fun! Being away from the busy shore and surrounded by the soothing sound of the ocean, SUP is also a chance to simply relax on the water. The time spent in the sun will also give you a good boost of Vitamin D which promotes bone, teeth and muscle health (but remember to wear your sunscreen). If this is your kind of speed, check out Paddle Barbados for lessons and tours.
With its hills, gullies, fields and forested countryside, hiking is becoming a popular past-time in Barbados. Organisations like the Barbados Hiking Association offer weekly hikes with varying degrees of difficulty. The Barbados National Trust also has a hiking schedule which includes moonlight hikes. These hikes allow participants to experience Barbados from a different point of view while engaging in an activity that promotes all-round good health. Aside from reducing stress levels and enhancing your overall mood, hiking helps to lower blood pressure, improves cardiovascular fitness (especially on those hilly routes) and engages your core muscles for a full-body workout. There is also that sense of fulfilment that you get from finishing a hike – nothing beats that feeling of euphoria, which is a plus for mental health!
Perhaps you’d like to explore some of the less known areas on a mountain bike. Or, maybe you want to rent a bicycle as your preferred means of just getting around the island during your stay. Either way, you can find what you’re looking for in Barbados. As long as you avoid falling, cycling is a low impact exercise that, once again, improves your cardiovascular health and overall fitness levels, while increasing flexibility and decreasing stress levels. As a bonus, cycling through the trails of Barbados is a relaxing activity that allows you to unwind and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. One of the more recent developments in cycling in Barbados is the Barbados Trailway Project which will be converting the old Barbados Railway to create an accessible trail for cyclists.
Whether it is a walk through the woods, guided meditation surrounded by trees, or a picnic in a garden, forest bathing is quickly becoming a favourite way to unwind - enjoying the eco-therapy that is naturally provided by our planet.
Communing with nature has been proven to relieve stress, assist with recovery from injuries or trauma and lower blood pressure. The lasting effects of forest bathing help to re-balance your mind and body, and you can enjoy that experience right here in Barbados. A visit to Coco Hill Forest will provide 53 acres of forests to walk along nature trails, meditate in the shade of the trees, or stop at any of the lookout points to enjoy the wonder of nature’s beauty. You can also visit other garden sanctuaries on the island, such as Hunte’s Gardens, where the serenity of nature is sure to relax even the most stressed mind.
Bajans are known for enjoying a good party, and every good party must have some good music! What better way to enjoy yourself than to dance to your heart’s content! Dancing is an enjoyable activity that also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Your heart will certainly be content with the improved condition that comes with regular dancing. It is an exercise that will increase endurance (especially if you’re on the dance floor for hours at a time), manage weight and improve muscle tone through an aerobic workout. And guess what? There are several opportunities to engage in dancing in Barbados. One popular outdoor spot is Oistins, particularly on Friday nights when DJs and sometimes live bands provide entertainment in the Bay Garden. One and all, regardless of experience and technique, can join in the dancing fun. If you’re here for the annual Crop Over Festival, there will be dancing all along the route of the island’s largest street parade. You can also find other outdoor (and indoor) dancing spots in the popular entertainment areas of St Lawrence Gap and 2nd Street in Holetown.