Despite some remaining stigmas that paddling is not a full body workout because all you do is sit on your butt all day, many scientists and athletes agree that kayaking and canoeing offer great aerobic exercises.
According to one article, it has actually been proven that water resistance training increases the capillaries in muscles, which translates into increase fat-burning and muscle building. While it is true that the major areas worked includes the chest, back, shoulders, and arms, the legs, and core also get a workout. If you don’t feel it in these places later, you are floating too much.
Total Body Workout and Affected Muscle Groups
Honestly, why would you not love kayaking? You are not stuck in a gym, you are not focused in on cheesy workout videos, and your exercises are not timed nor your reps counted. Plus, you are immersed in the majesty of nature, wildlife, and the glorious sun.
According to Men’s Journal online, you are probably going to hit more muscle groups in one hour of rowing or paddling session than you are in an entire gym session. Expect to feel the benefits of this full-body workout on your back, hands, shoulders, chest, abdomen, heart, arms, and legs. In fact, the magazine calls kayaking “one of the best workouts for heart health,” decreasing fat and building lean muscle.
Think of it as nature’s resistance training, and every stroke you take has a double impact on your body. Every row is a stretch and contraction of the muscles, and, in a paddle boat, you do this over and over and over again. To mix it up a little, you can try lake sprints and long sets with both wide and narrow grips, but, whichever way you paddle, you are going to get an excellent aerobic workout.
Generally, any time that you involve the back, you will also work the shoulders, and, in kayaking, your rear, lateral, and anterior deltoids are going to feel the burn. It is your biceps, though, that are really going to drive the paddles through the water.
The triceps, too, are going to get in on that rotating action, as you drive and extend; one arm goes up as the other goes down. Plus, as you grip for tighter, more powerful torque, your hands and forearms are constantly shifting pressure and changing feel in an attempt to keep the paddle stable.
And, as with any rotational movements, is all about coordination and control, and that is where the abdomen comes in. All of that power from the biceps won’t mean a thing if the repetitions are not times and balanced correctly, and that job falls to the abs, the neck, and the back.
The Pros Know Paddling is a Mental and Full-Body Workout
The heart and pectorals too are busy at work but don’t just take our word for it. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “just one hour of kayaking can burn over 350 calories,” and Bad Bostrom, REI Outdoor Programs Manager, adds that “proper technique even requires the use of muscles in the legs, back, and shoulders, as well as the muscles that rotate the torso.”
Moreover, you can also build mental toughness and agility, as overcoming obstacles like Class V rapids or river obstructions is a great way to work out stress and build confidence. In the same Huffington Post article, Jeffrey Chitek, operations manager and guide at Kayak Swamp Tours says that paddling “as a silent, non-competitive sport, it’s also a great way to clear your head.”
Many scientists concur that overcoming extreme challenges like whitewater or paddling across a lake are ways to build confidence and positive self-image. And, as luck would have it, some of the same activities that decrease stress also increase endorphins, the upshot being a lighter more cheerful moods. Some doctors even posit that just being in or beside water can have a calming effect, like running the faucet so the baby will sleep.
Kayak Best Fitness Tips, Tricks, and Wrap-Up
We have listed the many best fitness benefits of paddling, not the least of which is a full-body workout, but, in addition, we offer these helpful tips and tricks in order to fully enjoy your time out on the water.
- Pick the right boat for you. There are many choices out there for paddling total body workouts, like river kayak, sea kayaks, canoes, catamaran kayak and more.
- Paddle with pals when possible. Paddling is safest in a group, so why not make it a party?
- Wear a life jacket. Not only does this make good advice for personal safety. In many states, it is actually the law and boater face hefty fines and even jail time for non-compliance.
- Plan ahead. Pack appropriate clothing. Check the weather, and plan transportation to and from the lake or river.
If you need a full-body workout the hits all of the muscle groups, don’t head for the gym. Head for the kayak. Think of it this way says Courtenay Schurman, C.S.C.S in that article from Men’s Health: “ if you’re a 175-pound guy and you jog 6 mph for an hour, you’ll burn roughly 612 calories; but if you canoe 4 mph for an hour, you’ll burn 728 calories—even more, if there’s a headwind.”