Published: 28 November 2023

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One aspect of maritime life that is essential is staying fit and healthy. Exercising on board a ship may seem like a daunting task due to space limitations, the busy schedule and changing shift patterns but it’s crucial for the physical and mental well-being of those who spend extended periods at sea.

Not only is exercising on board important to maintain a healthy heart and boost blood flow to the brain. It is also a great aid to mental focus and a way to switch off from work and re-energise yourself. Twenty-five to thirty minutes of raised heart rate on a regular basis is ultimately all that is needed. Occasional days of non-exercise can also be beneficial as it is important to rest and allow your muscles to repair.


  1. Mental health: Long periods at sea can be mentally challenging. Exercising can help release endorphins, reduce stress and improve overall mental health.
  2. Physical stamina: Seafarers engage in physically demanding tasks. Therefore a high level of physical fitness is key to maintain the stamina required for these activities.
  3. Preventing injuries: Maintaining strong muscles and strength through regular exercise can help prevent injuries caused by the movement of the ship and the physical demands of maritime work.
  4. Improved Alertness: Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, leading to increased alertness and focus.


If you are new or returning to exercise, suitable caution should be taken including:

  1. Listen to your body: Always keep in mind past and present health conditions and constantly review how you feel. If you feel dizzy or feel any muscular pain, then stop. Particularly if there is any unusual pain or discomfort in the chest area.
  2. Stretching is key: Always stretch your muscles for several minutes before and after as a warm up and cool down. Stretching of muscles should be slow and gradual with no “bouncing”.
  3. Consistency is key: Establish a regular exercise routine and stick to it. Consistency is crucial for reaping the benefits of physical fitness.
  4. Know your limits: Start your new exercise regime slowly and carefully, building up your physical tolerance and experience. You will not achieve your physical peak in one day, a week, or even a month. Building up exercise over weeks and months helps to avoid injury and as you become more fit, there can be a real sense of achievement and personal development, which drives you on to do more.
  5. Create a workout space: If you are fortunate to be on a vessel with a gym, this can be a good place to socialise and also encourage each other, for example with lifting of weights. Utilise these spaces to maintain your fitness routine.
  6. Bodyweight and cardio exercises: if your ship does not have a workout area or equipment, bodyweight exercises are a good alternative. These include push-ups squats, lunges and planks. If the ship’s conditions allow, consider jogging or brisk walking on the deck. Be cautious of doors and passageways when exercising on the deck.
  7. Stay hydrated: Hydration is essential, especially in a maritime environment. Ensure you drink enough water before, during, and after your workouts and limit your alcohol intake. 

Exercising on board a ship is a vital aspect of seafaring life and is essential for the health and safety of seafarers. By incorporating regular exercise into their routines and utilising the available resources creatively, seafarers can enjoy the numerous benefits of staying fit at sea.