health benefits of kayaking

Paddling a kayak is a great way to stay in shape and see your watery world. Not only does it give you physical benefits but it is also one of the best activities for your mental health – or so we believe!

There is something extremely calming about paddling a kayak in the middle of a lake or bay. It allows your mind to switch off and focus on the activity at hand. Sure, there are lots of different things you can do to get your mind to take a break but few will be able to go to places that a simple kayak and a kayak paddle can take you.

Kayaking Calories vs. Other Activities

Check out the table below which shows you whereabouts kayaking sits in terms of calories burned per hour. Information from other activities in the table provided by Pop Sugar.

Exercise Calories Burned (Per Hour )
Running at a (6.7 mph pace) 600
Cardio kickboxing class 597
Swimming 594
Cycling (14- 16 mph pace) 540
Running at 6 mph 540
Elliptical 435
Indoor Spin Class 413
Kayaking (4- 5 mph Pace) 400
Hiking 387
Football 378
Yoga 269
Walking (4 mph pace) 243
Raking Leaves 216
Pilates 140

Kayaking Strengthens your Mental Health

Kayak exercise helps bring positivity and clarity to your mental health. For many people who suffer from depression they often underestimate their self-worth so as a result, it makes their thoughts spiral out of control. Kayaking helps bring clarity to that feeling in the sense that you are using your whole body to propel you forward. That, in turn, releases endorphins in the brain from the physical activity. There is also a feeling of tranquillity involved in being in the open water.

Mental Calmness

Being out in the open water is very meditative and allows your brain to release those thousands of thoughts that are racing through your brain and instead enjoy the moment. In fact, many people make it a routine to do some kayak exercise after work as it helps them de-stress and enjoy being in the moment.

Reduces Stress

It’s a long day at the office, you are thinking of all those emails you have to send and how the boss hates your guts. Well forget all of that stuff and jump into a kayak after a long day of work! A consistent amount of added stress can be dangerous to your long term health so why not take a breather? Truth is there are lots of ways to destress including going to the gym, going for a walk but none of them can be compared with the tranquillity that the combination of floating on the calm water and being in the great outdoors can provide. When you add the physical activity of paddling it can greatly reduce stress loads allowing you to think clearer and giving you a better night’s sleep.

Increases your Social Circle

You may think it’s weird to put this in with health benefits but they actually go hand in hand! Humans have evolved over time to be social, they need to be with other human beings in order to achieve some level of happiness. If you don’t have a lot of friends or your job takes you away from being around different people meeting new friends while kayaking is a great way to go! You could even join a club or take lessons. Who knows you might even find that special someone you have been searching for!

Helps Increase your Confidence

A lot of people can grow up with mental disorders or depression as they grow up which takes quite a toll on their confidence. However, if you take up kayaking and meet people with similar interests as you all while being outside it kind of makes you forget about all of that stuff. I recently watched a video where these adolescents had depression but found a happy place competing in whitewater slalom kayaking courses! Once you start feeling good about yourself or what you are doing, it helps you in your quest for happiness.

Kayaking Improves Mental Focus

It has been proven time after time that doing some sort of physical activity than getting back to work helps you get through the day with more focus and determination. This is no different for kayaking! Perhaps introduce your boss to kayaking?

Gives you Emotional Benefits

The time spent in nature is probably one of the most surreal things you can experience! If you’re in a couple kayaking with a favourite activity such as fishing or touring then it increases your positivity tenfold! It also has the opportunity to bring people closer together such as families, couples or friends!

Puts You in a Routine

If you enjoy kayaking you want to do it more right? With all the benefits listed it would be a good idea to schedule it into some sort of routine where you designate certain days to go kayaking. Don’t have a roof rack or a truck? Get an inflatable kayak! There is really no excuse for you to get some physical exercise and enjoy the peaceful tranquillity nature has to offer!

Makes You Happier

The combination of any kind of physical exercise and spending time in the great outdoors has a proven effect that makes you happier. So if you like kayaking go out and explore what waterways are out there! Kayak exercise helps you maintain a more active, healthy and happier lifestyle all while exploring new areas!

Paddling a Kayak consistently helps your cardiovascular system which has great benefits for your heart. Doing any physical activity helps with this however kayaking is one that is actually distracting in a good sort of way. How many normal people do cardiovascular exercises is go for a run or on the treadmill but it can be quite boring. Kayaking allows you to be out in nature and explore your waterways. This really distracts you from feeling the burn a lot of the times.

Increased Muscle Strength in your back

Kayaking is like the equivalent of doing a single-arm dumbbell or seated cable row in that every stroke you take works the lats. While one of the arms is rowing back the other is being stretched and then contracted. The difference is you are doing this exercise for a longer period of time.

Helps Increase Ab Definition

Not to many people think of this but your abs get worked quite a bit when kayaking! Your stomach is filled with “hard to get rid of” fats that take a lof ot effort to get rid of. Often times they demand a routine of core exercises done consistently to chip away at the fat. When paddling with some vigour, kayaking can provide a good ab workout when done consistently. The rotational movements of moving the paddle back and forth for an extended period of time really work on your abdomen and obliques! This puts a huge load on your core as seen below!

Increased Torso and Core Strength

These muscles are being exercised when you are steering and balancing the kayak with every stroke. The longer you go the more work is being done to them!

Increased Strength In Your Arms

During a kayaking session, the two main bi-products of the work is the biceps and triceps. As one arm rows in the biceps are hit, the other arm is using a forward extension thus putting torque on the paddle which creates work for the triceps. A similar gym exercise that can be compared to this is very high rep pull-ups. Your hands and forearms will be tired after a period of none stop paddling. If you even noticed olympian rowers and kayakers you will see that their arms are bulky. This is because this is one of the main areas they have to be strong in order to compete so they focus a lot of time building up those muscles.

Increased Strength in Your Shoulders

Believe it or not, shoulders are actually more involved in kayaking exercise than a typical back workout. The motion of the paddle coming up after each stroke and extending forward again really works the shoulders. The muscles being used in that motion are the large lateral muscle up to the shoulders as well as the rear, anterior and lateral deltoids. Your grip also has a part to play in what muscles are being used more just like in the gym.

Increased Strength in Your Chest

The movements involved can be compared to a single-arm dumbbell bench press, but slightly different. Anytime you do a rowing motion of any particular kind the pectoral muscles flex to stabilise the shoulder and the arm as they pull in. While not as noticeable as doing a full-on bench press over time you will notice a subtle difference.

Helps Increase your Leg Strength

The Legs are an important part of balance within the kayak. As you learn a better paddling technique you learn to work the legs with the hips to help turn to stabilize or brace the kayak. For better paddling technique it also helps to rotate your hips while you paddle to give you better rotation and strength per paddle.

Helps with Weight Loss

Weight Loss is a common problem in today’s society. However with the combination of the above exercises being utilised kayaking actually does help you lose weight. However as with anything you have to be kayaking consistently to start seeing a difference. Paddling a kayak once will not make a difference in that regard. The more seat time you get in your kayak the more weight will shed off! Consistently going 4-5 mph in a kayak for an hour can burn 400 calories and up depending on the person.

Helps Bring Vitamin D into your body

Vitamin D is something that our bodies need to properly function. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t get enough of it. It is hard to get Vitamin D in foods so what is the alternative? Go out and get some sun! Being outside in the sun helps your body get that special vitamin it needs to properly function. Just remember to bring sunscreen!

Increases Your Stamina

Similar to any physical activity the more you do it the better you get at it! Kayaking is no different. As you kayak more you will be more in tune with how the boat behaves and how much longer you can paddle without getting tired! It is definitely one of the more enjoyable ways to increase your stamina.

These are the main mental and physical benefits to kayaking that I could find but the truth is there are probably thousands out there! Kayaking is a great hobby or sport to get into that involves people of all ages and backgrounds. Even if you do not have a kayak you can still head out to your local rental store where you can test them out and make an informed decision for yourself. Please do remember to bring a Life Jacket with you at all times, better safe than sorry right?


The Many Health Benefits of Kayaking