Why Stand-Up Paddleboarding is Actually a Killer Workout

SUP offers a surprisingly long list of incredible fitness benefits

Flickr/Taro Taylor CC by 2.0

At first glance, stand-up paddleboarding, or “SUP” as it’s more commonly referred to, might not look that challenging.

How hard could it be to balance on an oversized surfboard while casually paddling along, right?

Sure, if you watch someone on a paddleboard, it doesn’t look like the sport requires all that much effort, but once you plant your feet on a board and head out to sea you quickly learn the effort involved goes way beyond what meets the eye.

“I see people with a strong core whose legs are shaking in two minutes. Sometimes people who look aesthetically the most fit are the worst at it,” SUP world champion Annabel Anderson told Competitor. “It’s a real wake-up call.

Don’t let this increasingly popular sport intimidate you, though. Once you’ve mastered the basics it can serve as an extremely beneficial component to almost any exercise routine.

Here’s why SUP can actually be considered an effective form of exercise, rather than just a relaxing recreational activity. 

It’s More Intense than it Looks

The level of intensity certainly depends on what type of water you’re boarding on, but even if you’re just paddling along over flat, calm waters your balance, strength and endurance will be put to the test all at once. Add waves to that equation and your workout will be increasingly more difficult. 

All About the Core

SUP puts nearly every single muscle in your body to work, but one area that’s targeted the most while you’re out on the water is your core. Maintaining your balance requires constant engagement of your abdominal muscles and, along with the muscles in your upper body, they’ll contract as you row from side to side. “When most people think SUP, they assume it’s all about the arms—it's not,” explains Jose Gonzalez, ACE Certified personal trainer,  ACA SUP Instructor Trainer and REI outdoor programs and outreach market manager. “It works your core and legs through the movement of bringing the paddle to the board. Specifically, SUP engages the deltoids, rotator cuffs, traps, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, supraspinatus, and your abdominal muscles.”

Click here to see more of the incredible fitness benefits you can gain from SUP.

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