The Various Health Benefits of Kayaking

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Kayaking is pleasurable in so many ways. It’s a great way to explore local or exotic waterways…and take in some gorgeous views as you paddle. It’s also a wonderful way to challenge yourself, because it’s possible to paddle on waterways with different levels of “river difficulty”, from Class I to Class VI. Another great reason to kayak is to enjoy the health benefits that kayaking brings. Kayaking is really good exercise.

Once you discover the various health benefits of kayaking, you may be inspired to get out there on the water more often. If you’ve never paddled before, our guide may motivate you to give it a try.

If you do decide to give kayaking a shot, you won’t be disappointed. It’s so much fun and so good for your body, too.

Health Benefits of Kayaking

collection of colorful kayaks

When you paddle a kayak, you’ll be performing low-impact exercise. This type of exercise provides overall health benefits, including improved flexibility, better strength and enhanced aerobic fitness. Kayaking will also help you to lose weight and relieve stress.


When you paddle, you’ll do vertical paddle strokes to move sideways and perform rudder strokes to keep your kayak moving straight forward. There are plenty of strokes that are used in this type of physical activity and mastering them all will help you to improve your flexibility.

When you gain flexibility through regular paddling, you’ll find that your body is able to absorb strain and stress with reduced risk of injury.

Some paddlers augment their kayaking sessions with gym workouts in order to become as flexible as they can be. For example, they might do Pilates or Yoga, or use rowing machines or other fitness machines that help to stretch their muscles.

In particular, paddlers who want to compete in kayaking competitions may do gym training that allows them to build amazing flexibility. Superb flexibility helps them to win competitions!

While you’ll be able to build flexibility just by paddling, you may want to consider gym training, too. Everything that you do to improve flexibility will help you to become the fittest person possible.


Using our muscles makes them stronger and kayaking at a moderate pace will definitely engage your muscles and build up your strength. While you may think that kayaking builds up arm strength, but doesn’t do much for other parts of the body, you should know that a lot of muscles get a workout during paddling, as long as proper form is practiced.

What’s great about building strength through kayaking is that you’ll be able to enjoy the sensation of moving through the water as you work out your muscles. If you find gym exercise boring, you’ll love the feeling that you get from paddling. You’ll be in motion and in control of your boat. You’ll be outside. It’s a different way to build strength, because it’s just such a pleasant activity for an assortment of reasons.

You may lose sight of the fact that you’re building muscle because you’re having a good time exploring in your kayak. Even when you “forget” that you’re working out, you’ll still get strength benefits.

Aerobic Fitness

Paddling will boost aerobic fitness and provide you with tons of general health benefits. When your aerobic fitness goes up, your blood pressure will go down. Also, you’ll develop a resting heart rate which is lower than it used to be.

If you want a strong heart which doesn’t have to work as hard to take care of essential functions, you’ll find that kayaking is the perfect way to achieve your goal.

Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, you should know that kayaking at five miles per hour will burn roughly four hundred calories every sixty minutes. You’ll basically be burning off a light meal every hour. If you paddle for four hours, you’ll burn up a whopping sixteen hundred calories. It’s quite possible to achieve weight loss goals when you paddle regularly.

If you go kayaking often enough, you may find that you’re able to indulge in treats sometimes without paying the price when you step on your bathroom scale.

If you’ve recently lost weight and want to maintain your goal weight, paddling will work wonders.

Stress Management

Another key advantage of kayaking is that you’re going to relieve stress while you do it. Stress is a fact of life and managing it effectively is one of the secrets of good health. When stress isn’t managed well, it may set the stage for illness.

Stress is also known to make health problems worse.

When you paddle your kayak for a few hours, just twice per week, you’ll access feel good chemicals (endorphins) which elevate your mood and make problems easier to handle. Being out in nature is so soothing and getting healthy exercise while you drink in the beauty of shore, river and sky will help you to forget all of your problems for a while.

Which Muscles Get Toned During Kayaking?

a couple of kayaks with paddlers

If you want stronger muscles, be sure to rent a kayak and then go for a paddle. If you want to kayak a lot, buying one will make more sense, as the cost of frequent rentals really adds up.

Many people assume that paddling is all about the arms and shoulders. The truth is that paddling with correct form works a lot more muscles than that. For example, while you won’t use your legs to move the kayak, you will use them to gain stability as you paddle and this means that they’ll get a workout, too.

When you go kayaking on a regular basis, you’ll build strength in many different parts of your body, including your limbs, shoulders, core and back.

It’s pretty obvious that the act of paddling works out the arms and the shoulders. It also engages back muscles and upper torso muscles. Additionally, paddling movements engage the core muscles and this is good news. A strong core is a great foundation for a strong upper body. Lots of us do work on our core fitness, because developing stronger core muscles (the deep internal muscles near our spines) improves our overall fitness levels. Fitness experts definitely believe in core exercise and its health and fitness benefits.

As you can see, kayaking is a full-body workout.

Which Kayaking Styles Offer the Best Fitness Gains?

kayaking in whitewater

The more aggressive forms of kayaking, such as whitewater kayaking, are going to be more physically demanding and will tend to bring more pronounced fitness results. However, these types of kayaking styles sometimes bring risk as well.

We don’t recommend trying whitewater kayaking without taking some lessons first. It’s often better to build kayaking skills up to the advanced level before trying this type of kayaking. Also, when you do it, you shouldn’t do it alone. Make sure to have a buddy with you at all times.

Some people do technical tricks in sections of whitewater river. They usually have special kayaks, known as play boats, which facilitate the completion of fancy moves. Play boat enthusiasts are going to get a major workout as they test their mettle against surging whitewater.

Sea kayaking, which happens in open water, where water conditions are sometimes rough, is also quite challenging physically.

Distance also plays a role. The amount of miles you cover in your kayak matters from a fitness standpoint, as does the level of effort that you put into paddling during your travels.

Even the gentlest forms of kayaking are good forms of exercise. However, extreme kayaking or long-distance sea kayaking do offer the most tangible strength, flexibility and weight loss advantages.


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