Health and Fitness Benefits of Recreational Kayaking

Health and Fitness Benefits of Recreational Kayaking

Imagine this…..a super-toned abdomen, strong, flexible shoulder and back muscles, a healthier heart, improved balance and mental focus.

The result of long hours spent indoors at the gym? Not if you have a kayak.

By now, most people know that kayaking has become a thing. Certainly, the need to maintain safe social distances in the shadow of COVID-19 has prompted thousands of people of all ages and skill levels to get outside and head for water in a ‘yak. A result? Many of these paddlers are quickly discovering the range of positive physical, mental and spiritual effects that kayaking can produce.

Those benefits could easily be a big reason why global sales of ‘yaks, life jackets, paddles, roof racks, and other gear are expected to continue their momentum well into the months and years ahead.

Kayaking Is Good Karma

We’ll start with the spiritual and mental. Have you ever looked up to watch a large bird soaring high above, tilting and turning against the sky, floating effortlessly on the wind? It seems so free, far from the hustle and bustle below, away from congested roads, unclean air and crowded spaces. If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve gazed up at that image and thought: “If only I had wings to fly….!”

In many ways, safe, recreational kayaking offers something very similar to what that bird in flight might be experiencing. Out on a lake or the ocean, on a long, twisting river, leaning into a wave, paddles become wings. Water morphs into sky. The mind and heart soon come alive like never before as you establish a steady rhythm with your strokes. Endorphins flood your bloodstream and a welcome feeling of calm takes over. Your mind is alert and wide awake.

Glide along the water’s surface and suddenly the world is transformed. Thoughts become scenes from a daydream. A breeze brushes your face. Sights and sounds of Nature are everywhere.  Things back on shore can start to seem much more manageable.

Good karma has come full circle.

Lean Muscle Mass and Flat Abs – What’s Not to Love?

Then there are the many physical boosts. Kayaking is what’s called a “low impact activity.” This makes it appealing to many who are seeking a great aerobic work-out without the joint, muscle and skeletal system stress that other sports can produce. In fact, with proper technique, recreational kayaking safely builds strength and lean mass in nearly every major muscle group in the body.

This is particularly true for the back, arms, chest, and shoulders. Better flexibility and cardiovascular fitness are added bonuses!

Kayak paddling is a fantastic lower body work-out, too. Because good paddling technique means efficiently transferring power (known as torque) from the abdominal, or core, muscles to your paddle stroke, you’re certain to feel the burn in your obliques and lats. You will also be toning your thighs, butt and even your calf muscles.

According to Harvard Health Publication (HHP), a strong core enhances one’s balance and overall physical stability. This can help prevent falls and injuries during other sports or daily activities.

Shredding Calories – Easy to Do on the Water

And what about calories? No problem! In 30 minutes of kayaking, a 185-pound person burns about 222 calories, says HHP. So, an average adult paddling at a moderate pace for one hour will burn more than 400 calories – roughly the equivalent of a half-hour on the treadmill or walking briskly for four miles. Over the course of a long excursion, a kayak paddler can easily burn more than 1,000 calories.

That’s not even counting the exercise involved in loading and unloading your boat and gear, maybe helping your paddling buddy do the same, portaging over a beaver dam or two, entering and exiting your boat, rinsing and storing it, and throughout, concentrating on all that is happening around you.

Put it all together and yes, you can enhance your fitness while kayaking. Your heart, feet, knees, mind and soul will all thank you – each and every time you shove off! Please check with your physician before taking up kayaking, or any sport, if you have a serious heart condition or other health concern. Enjoy!


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