11 Ways to Stay Physically & Mentally Fit Onboard

Jul 04, 2023 · 8 mins read ·

Life at Sea
AI generated image showing how to stay physically and mentally well when  working in a job at sea

You know that as someone working in a job at sea, a certain degree of physical fitness is a must. Many ranks will be on their feet for the majority of their working day and let’s not even get into all those stairs and steps you need to climb!

So it might be tempting to think that staying fit while you’re on board your vessel is something that is just a byproduct of your work. But is there more to it than that?

Could you be giving yourself an additional helping hand when it comes to staying fit and healthy? And what about your mental health too? Are you taking good enough care of your mind while you’re away working at sea or offshore?

Read more: 4 Wellness Tips for Officers of the Watch

There aren’t many of us who honestly say, hand on heart, that we’re doing absolutely everything right when it comes to looking after our minds and bodies, so we’ve put together some ideas that you can try out while you’re working on a ship.

11 Ways to stay physically and mentally fit onboard 

From staying active to practicing mindfulness to making better dietary choices, here are some ways anyone working in a seafarer job can bring their best self to work every day.

Staying physically active onboard your vessel

1. Go for a jog or a walk

Whether or not you walk a lot in your day to day duties on your ship, taking an early morning or an evening jog or brisk walk is a great way to stay active. In good weather, get out onto the deck for a stroll and breathe that fresh sea air in while consciously striding with purpose.

2. Work out in the gym

If your vessel has training or gym equipment onboard, make the most of it. Our bodies respond well to different forms of exercise so make sure you train different muscles on different days and switch up the weights or machines that you use on a regular basis.

Read more: 6 Ways to De-Stress When You Get Home from a Seafarer Job

3. Play some team games

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition to get yourself moving. Grab some of your crew mates and organize a fun sporting activity wherever you have room onboard. Relay races, ping pong, a kick about with a ball - it all counts and it’s a great way to bond with fellow crew and create a better community at sea too.

4. Take the plunge and go for a swim

Lucky enough to have a swimming pool onboard? Make sure you take advantage of it and get yourself into a healthy swim routine. Not only is swimming an awesome form of exercise that gives the entire body a workout without putting strain on your joints, it’s a great way to wake up too!

Make better food choices onboard your vessel

5. You are what you eat

Now we know this is really in the hands of the chief cook onboard but if you have options at meal and snack time, try to resist the temptation to give in to sugary or fatty foods. Go for white meat and fish over red if possible and load up on fruit and veggies. Go for brown or wholemeal bread instead of white too, if available.

6. Stay hydrated

Keeping your water intake up is crucial too. Aim for eight glasses of water a day to make sure you’re well hydrated. Signs of dehydration can include sluggishness and headaches - two things you don’t want to be dealing with onboard while you’re trying to perform your seafarer job safely and efficiently.

Read more: How to Cope with Stress When Working in a Seafarer Job

7. Watch your alcohol intake

If you work for a shipping company that allows alcohol to be consumed onboard their vessels, don’t fall into the trap of mindlessly boozing every time you finish your day, shift or watch. Keep an eye on what you’re drinking and how often, and drink a cold beer or two as a treat once or twice a week rather than as a daily habit. 

Stay mindful and practice wellbeing onboard 

8. Maintain a positive attitude

No one wants to work with someone who oozes negativity so make sure you’re not that seafarer! Greet your fellow crew in a friendly fashion, lend a helping hand when needed, and praise younger seafarers for a job well done. When you act in a cheerful manner, you’ll spread positivity and feel happier too.

9. Don't be scared of change

Technology onboard vessels has always been liable to change, update and upgrade. And as humans we are hardwired to want to learn. When we’re not evolving we’re stagnating and that will lead to discontent. Embrace the changing aspects of your seafarer job and pursue additional qualifications through online seafarer training courses.

Read more: 5 Ways to Beat Homesickness While You're Away at Sea

10. Stay in touch with family and friends

Just as you no doubt miss the folks back home, they too miss you. These days there is little to no reason why you can’t communicate with your loved ones, even if you have to wait until you’re in port. Whether you’re FaceTiming, phone calling, Tik-Toking or Snapchatting, keeping in contact with those ashore is a great way to unwind and release stress.

11. Get a good night's sleep

We know that this is easier said than done, but having constant poor quality rest can affect your physical and mental health, and - something that’s vital if you’re working in a job on a ship -  your safety, and that of your fellow crew. If you suffer from insomnia or broken sleep patterns, check out our tips for getting better sleep when you work in a seafarer job. 

Read more: How to Cope with Working Away from Home in Jobs at Sea

The importance of staying on top of your game at sea

As a seafarer, your days are often long, physically demanding or mentally taxing. And it’s only by ensuring that you are both mentally and physically at the top of your game that you can bring your best self to work each day.

And not only will that make life easier, happier and - crucially - safer - for your fellow crew, the cargo and the vessel, but it will make your life at sea exponentially better and more productive and enjoyable too.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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