Ditch the Gym – Go Kayaking for the Best Exercise!

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Health benefits of kayaking for exercise.

Kayaking for exercise is becoming increasingly popular due to the fact that it is a perfect getaway for the stressed-out millennials, and the many health benefits it offers.

Besides, who does not want to be in the water?

Unless the person is hydrophobic, which is very rare, everyone loves to be in the water.

And then there are the meat markets called fitness gyms. Dank and stinky with wait lines to use the best equipment. Stale air and music blasting that you don’t want to hear.


No thanks…I’d rather go kayaking!

In this post, let us learn about this wonderful sport and all the health benefits that it provides.

What are the health benefits of kayaking for exercise?

  1. Weight loss
  2. Upper body strength training
  3. Aerobic benefits
  4. Stress relief
  5. Great source of Vitamin D
  6. Core strengthening

Kayaking is not only a thrilling and fun sport, but it also has numerous health benefits. Paddling a kayak has physical as well as mental benefits.

Let find out more.

Weight loss.

If you enjoy spending your time in the water with a kayak, here is a piece of good news.

Studies have revealed that kayaking is an effective way to burn calories. To propel a kayak at 4- 5 mph, you will need to generate about 0.1 hp (horsepower).

If you’re moving at this pace, approximately 400 calories will be burned in an hour. This means you will be able to burn up 1200 calories in just three hours.

Hiking has a calorie burn rate of 378 per hour, and walking has 243 calories per hour, while a yoga class burns 269 calories per hour.

The faster you travel, the more energy and power is required, which means more calories will be burned out.

If you want to stay healthy, and in shape, go ahead and lose weight through kayaking.

Upper body exercise.

Paddling a kayak touches every muscle in the upper body, which is a good exercise. Even if you travel slowly- say at 3 mph, in one hour you would be doing about 1500 repeated paddlings.

As you paddle and balance the kayak, your abdominal muscles, biceps, triceps, lower back, and shoulders are exercised.


Regardless of what your goals are, whether you’re doing it for fun, or just accompanying a friend, you will be getting a good upper body work out which will keep your body in good shape.

Aerobic benefits.

Just like any other activity, kayaking increases the rate of respiration. As the paddler breathes in more fresh oxygen, the capacity of the vascular systems and the lungs will be improved over time.

An aerobically fit person has a better capability in decision-making, has better focus/concentration, and is more alert.

Stress reliever.

If you’re tired or stressed out with your job, and a noisy city environment, go to the waters and enjoy kayaking.

Spending a few hours on a lake can refresh your mind and restore your soul.

Being out in the waters enjoying the beauty of nature – the blue skies, the landscapes, and the clouds will truly relax your mind, bring peace, and relieve stress.

Source of Vitamin D.

Being out in the sun is the ultimate source of Vitamin D. It can be very hard to get this vitamin from food, regardless of the type of food one eats.

There is a reason why some health experts term it as “sunshine Vitamin.”

Improves cardiovascular health.

Paddling a kayak involves a lot of brisk movement; this increases the heart rate and improves the condition of the heart.

Core conditioning/strengthening.

The core, which is composed of lower and upper abdominals, is twisted with each stroke. This strengthens the core muscle groups over time.

Here’s a helpful video that shows how the upper and lower body can work together when performing a proper paddle stroke:

Is kayaking better for cardio or strength training?

Kayaking is a growing popular sport, and this is mainly because of the many health benefits associated with it. It is an incredible cardio exercise as well as strength training.

Quite a lot of people think that kayaking is only good for upper body exercise, but it’s actually a full-body workout.

It is safe to say that kayaking is an arm focused activity.

However, kayaking strengthens the legs too. They help in turning and keeping the kayak balanced.

If you’re looking to get an intense lower and upper body work out, there are some which are pedal-driven kayaks.

This will allow you to alternate between arm propulsion and leg propulsion.

For those people who want to do cardio exercise or strength training but are being prohibited by a knee or hip injury, kayaking is a great alternative.

What exercises are good for kayaking?

Professionals always make things look so easy and effortless. So, watching an expert paddler, you may think that it’s easy.

But if you have tried paddling a kayak for at least an hour, you may have realized that your muscles are not yet ready for an adventure in the waters.

If you’re planning on a tour, or you simply want to get involved in this sport seriously, then you should consider training your muscles and have them prepared beforehand.

Below are some good exercises for kayaking.

Cross fit.

One of the best exercise routines for kayaking is Crossfit. Crossfit promotes exercises that require a full-body movement and focus on strength.

When doing a cross-fit exercise, ensure that you have a qualified gym instructor beside you.

Performing this exercise or any other exercise the wrong way can cause an injury.

Planks and sit-ups.

These are some of the most effective exercises for the core. It focuses heavily on the abdominal muscles, and also strengthens the forearms.

To do a plank, position yourself in a push-ups posture, and hold for at least a minute while maintaining a flat back. Rest for a while, and repeat the process 4-5 times.

The pull-down exercise for strength.

Pull down is a great strength training exercise which will be of great help when paddling a kayak.

This exercise will strengthen your triceps as well as increase the handgrip overtime.

Some other great kayak exercise includes squads, crunch and twist, and half-kneeling chop exercise.

Follow these tips before you start training or exercising.

  • Always do some warm-up exercises before each training session. A few minutes of stretching is very crucial.
  • Make sure that you do not train too hard or push yourself too much. Exercise should fit your body.
  • If a particular exercise hurts you, skip it. Take a rest for a few days if necessary.
  • Increase your pace slowly, and increase the repetitions as you make progress.
  • There are tons of kayak exercise benefits, be sure to perform each of these in the right way. Seek your instructor’s help if necessary.

Can you lose weight by kayaking for exercise?

  • Absolutely!

Kayaking is an excellent way to lose weight, the constant twist and turns involved in repetitive paddling can shed a good amount of calories.

Weight loss is a huge issue faced by numerous people today. Being a part of any weight loss program requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and patience, which can be quite intimidating.

And it takes a whole lot of determination to keep up with the training and the worst of all, the diet.

When you’re into the weight loss or weight management program, you will be forced to stay away from your favorite junk food.

This is the part where many people give in or fail to stay committed

What should I eat when kayaking for exercise?

In the case of kayaking, there are no rules, and there won’t be any sort of restriction on your diet.

With a little common sense, of course, you are expected to eat healthy food in proper proportion. I recommend a good keto-friendly diet.

A nutrition plan incorporating low carbohydrate intake will turn your body into a fat furnace! 

Incorporating days of kayak exercise will make all the difference in your weight loss journey.

My wife and I lost 100 pounds collectively on a keto nutrition plan but the weight REALLY started to drop off when we started kayaking once a week.

Kayaking involves the use of almost every muscle in the body, especially the upper body parts.

Propelling a kayak at 5 mph for an hour will shed 400 calories.

If you think one hour is too long, you may be in for a surprise. Kayaking is so much fun that you won’t realize how fast the time goes by.

Now, is there a better way to lose those pounds?

How do you start kayaking?

When we talk about a kayak, most people think about a cool morning with calm waters and a stunning scenic view created by the sun’s golden rays.

While some visualize a warm evening with the sun going down the horizon.

But what many people do not realize is that this fun-filled sport can be adopted and included in a daily-life routine.

Kayaking has numerous health benefits. While you enjoy the activity or sport that you’re so passionate about, you also get to work out your muscles and stay healthy and fit.

If you’re new to this, and you don’t have much idea of where to start, you can start enriching your life with a kayak by following these steps.

1.  Kayaking for beginners.

Like any other sport, there are certain rules you must follow to be on the safe side and enjoy it to the fullest. Enrolling in a lesson at the beginning is always a good idea.

This does not mean that you have to join a class or a training program. Of course, it would be very beneficial if you want to be a professional kayaker, but if that’s not the case, you can ask some of your friends who are experienced kayakers.


You can start by borrowing a kayak from a friend, or if that’s not possible, you can always rent one.

Never kayak alone, it can be too dangerous, especially for the starters. If none of your friends or family is available to help you, sign up for a class, it’s not expensive.

Look for a local kayaking group on Facebook or Reddit. There’s also a great phone app called Strava that not only tracks your exercise but also allows you to create and join groups.

2.  Choosing a kayak.

There are different types of kayaks, and selecting the right boat is of extreme importance for the beginners. If you want to practice in a lake, then a flat-water boat is a good choice.

Most of the beginners go with the sit-on-top boats as they offer greater stability, and they’re easy to paddle. I prefer the sit-in kayaks and paddle only on rivers so far.

3.  Selecting kayak gear.

The person providing you the boat should also provide you with the essential gear. This includes the following:

Paddle – It should be the right size for you, also make sure that it’s not too heavy for you as it will tire your muscles very quickly.

Personal Flotation Device or PFD – This is similar to life jackets, but a little different. Ensure that it fits you perfectly if it’s too small or too big, it will limit your maneuverability.

Spray skirt – It keeps the water out of the boat (not mandatory).

Helmet – A helmet is important for surf kayaking and is not a recommended gear for sea kayaking, but it’s worth mentioning.

Additional items you need to carry – Consider these personal items.

  • At least 3-4 liters of drinking water
  • snacks-preferably a protein bar
  • sunglasses
  • dry bag for keeping your gadgets dry
  • whistle and laser light or a flashlight for signaling in case of emergency
  • sunscreen
  • a first-aid kit

What muscles does kayaking exercise?

As discussed above, kayaking is a full-body workout. It touches almost every muscle, but most importantly, the upper body. Here are the major muscles exercised by kayaking.

The back – The most used muscle group in kayaking is the back. With each and every stroke, the back muscles are used.

Shoulders – This is self-explanatory, as the paddler pulls the paddle towards the body, the shoulder muscles and the rotator cuff muscles are exercised.

Biceps and triceps – These two muscles are also heavily involved in paddling the kayak.


Other muscles that are exercised by kayaking includes the core muscles, legs and hips, grip and forearms, heart, and chest.

What exercise machine best mimics kayaking for winter training?

Kayak exercise machines are designed to provide the kayakers with almost the same experience as paddling a kayak. The force needed to paddle a kayak, and the resistance put up by the water on the boat is reproduced by these machines.

One of the best kayak exercise machines is the NordicTrack RW900 Rower (Amazon link to see it). This incredible equipment best mimics kayaking training or exercise.

Final thoughts

Considering that kayaking is a perfect combination of fun and thorough workout, it is no wonder that the sport is gaining momentum quickly.

Unlike a monotonous gym session, kayaking fills your heart with thrill and your eyes with pleasure. Get paddling and show off your impressive toned body.