8 Reasons You Should Try Kayaking

Strength training, cardio and adventure, paddling has it all

By Kvhuegel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Too often, we obsessively glorify new fitness fads, overlooking some of the tried and true activities that aren’t as flashy. While we like to check out the latest workouts and crazes, it’s always nice to get back to basics and the outdoors will always be our favorite fitness center. Kayaking is one of those classic activities that puts you right in the center of nature and provides an excellent workout. We love paddling and we think you should try it.

1. Kayaking can help flatten and tone your tummy. In order to glide over the water, paddling takes a lot of core strength and movement. Paddling on both sides of the boat means twisting, which targets muscles that might normally be overlooked.

2. The sport offers a fantastic upper body workout. Whether you’re out in the ocean fighting a current or making your way across a calm lake, the resistance of the water provides an effective strength workout for your back, arms, shoulders and chest, among other areas.

3. Though paddling is mainly associated with upper body strength, the legs are an integral part. Steering and guiding the kayak is dependent on your core and legs, and your rotating core needs help from those stronger leg muscles.

4. Its great strength work, but another added benefit is the aerobic exercise. Pick up the pace and elevate your heart rate to see cardio benefits without an elliptical or treadmill. According to several sources (including this calculator), you can burn 400 to 500 calories in an hour of kayaking.

5. Another good reason to skip the treadmill in favor of paddling is that the sport is low-impact. Unlike running which takes a toll on knees and ankles, paddling is less demanding on joints and tissues. Good news for those recovering from injury.

6. It is versatile and adaptable. You can use a kayak in almost any body of water: river, lake, ocean, pool—well, large pool. Within those waters, there are many different uses. Opportunities range from leisure paddling to marathon racing or water polo.

7. Kayaks offer adventure. Typically, kayaking is thought of as either a vacation activity for kids or a sightseeing opportunity for older people. But if you’re looking for thrills, wild water kayaking over waterfalls is about as intense as you can get. And long journeys on kayaks bring the ultimate sense of exploration.

8. Stress relief might be the most commonly cited benefit of paddling and it’s not hard to imagine. But research published in the Journal of Leisurability suggests that there may be metal and emotional benefits to paddling beyond stress relief. The study focused on individuals who had experienced brain injury and then could not participate in all outdoor activity. They were put in a 12-week kayaking program and the emotional benefits were staggering.

Following participation in the kayak program, the group mean score increased to reflect enhanced feelings of self-worth, confidence, physical appearance, feelings of adequacy, and a sense of improved worth in social interactions, as well as the ability to follow through and become physically involved in active recreation.


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