Kayaking is up there with baseball and family game night as one of America’s great pastime activities. Every summer, millions of kayakers head out to enjoy a quiet afternoon of undisturbed tranquility and soak in the wonders of America’s countryside majesty.
But being so much fun, is kayaking good exercise as well? Let’s find out.
What kayaking does to your body and overall health
Paddling a kayak (or canoe for that matter) is a recreational activity that builds muscles, lifts your mood, and gives you a cardio workout just like cycling or walking. In fact, data shows that 27 minutes of light paddling is equivalent to taking 2,000 steps.
It is a low-impact exercise that can build your strength, enhance your flexibility and aerobic fitness.
There are several health benefits to paddling:
- Better cardiovascular fitness
- Enhanced muscle strength, specifically the back, shoulders, chest, and arm muscles as you use them to paddle
- Increased leg and torso strength as you rotate your torso and maintain stability with your legs.
- Because it is a low-impact activity, it reduces stress on your joints, keeping them from wear and tear.
Apart from physical benefits, one of the many benefits of kayaking is its impact on your mind.
Depending on where you go paddling, it can be tranquil, meditative, or exhilarating. It increases your endorphins, leading to a better mood and reduced stress while you enjoy the countryside breeze and fresh air.
Is kayaking a full-body workout?
Paddling works the chest, arms, shoulders, and back mainly, but your leg muscles and core will also get the exercise while at it. Indeed, the proper kayaking technique requires using the muscles in the legs, shoulders, back, and those that help turn the torso.
It is a general stigma that paddling is just an upper body workout and not full-body, since it involves using our arms and sitting. This is not true, though.
Is kayaking cardio (aerobic) or strength (anaerobic)?
Kayaking is both a cardiovascular and strength training exercise.
As a cardiovascular exercise, paddling takes energy, making the heart pump more forcefully and faster. It will also increase your breathing rate, sending more air into your lungs to provide the extra oxygen your body needs. This keeps your blood vessels dilated since your muscles demand more oxygen. In addition, studies have shown that paddling leads to the formation of more capillaries in the muscles.
As an aerobic exercise, kayaking strengthens your entire body. Maintain stability and balance while paddling activates almost every muscle group. The proper paddling technique requires the activation of your core and back muscles to turn your torso. Every stroke works these muscles, making them stronger.
While you use one arm to row back, the other is stretched and contracted. This activates your chest muscles and your arms. As you row in with one arm and counter with the other, you work both your triceps and biceps, making your arm bulky and firm, increasing your upper body strength.
And it is not only paddling that will give you the workout; think about hauling your gear from the house to the car and then from the car to the river. Even if you have a light inflatable kayak, setting things up and breaking them down can be a workout in itself!
This series of activities work your upper and lower body muscles, helping burn more calories and building strength.
You can vary the speed and intensity of your paddling strokes to make the workout more effective.
How many calories does kayaking burn?
Kayaking burns 300-420 calories per hour of paddling. Harvard Medical School found that the amount of calories burned depends on the kayaker’s weight:
- A 125 lbs person will burn 300 calories per hour of kayaking
- A 155 lbs person will burn 360 calories per hour of kayaking
- A 185 lbs person will burn 420 calories per hour of kayaking
As you can see, paddling is a fun way to blast away stubborn fat.
The amount of calories burned depends on how much you weigh. A 150 lbs person can burn more than 350 calories when they kayak for an hour. If you weigh more, you will burn more fat because you’ll need to use more energy to move your body.
Of course, you actually need to paddle for it to have a positive effect on your body. Simply drifting along on a river will not burn any calories.
Can you lose weight from kayaking?
Paired with a sensible diet, kayaking (as a form of exercise) is a fun and effective way to achieve your weight loss goals.
As you probably know, losing weight requires a caloric deficit. You need to eat fewer calories than your body uses per day. As you already know, this sport burns more than 300-400 calories per hour, helping you lose weight.
Being a low-impact exercise, paddling is also a great way to avoid injury to your joints and ligaments. This is important for severely overweight people looking for a form of exercise that will not cause pain and injuries.
But with that said, if your main focus is on losing weight, other forms of exercise can burn more calories. For example:
- Step aerobics: 504 calories per hour
- Elliptical Trainer: 648 calories per hour
- swimming: 432 calories per hour
- Running 6 mph (10 min/mile): 720 calories per hour
Does kayaking burn belly fat and build abs?
Yes, kayaking can help you lose belly fat and build firm abs. The proper form of paddling involves rotational movements that are very taxing on your core muscles. With each stroke of the paddle, you will contract your abdominal and oblique muscles, which helps build core strength.
These combinations of movements sculpt your core, giving your abs and obliques a good workout.
Conclusion: Is kayaking good exercise?
Most kayakers don’t think of fitness when it comes to paddling, but the activity does more for your muscles and cardiovascular system than you think.
It does not only work your upper body, but trains your legs and hips too. In addition, it also boosts your metabolism, helping blast away fats from various places on the body, leaving you lean and flexible.
Unlike other workouts that get boring because of their repetitive nature, kayaking is an outdoor activity that will never get dull.
Next time you are out on the water battling those rapids or reeling in a fish, just know that you are getting great exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.