In addition to being a fun and exciting recreational activity, kayaking has important health benefits. Kayaking combines low-impact strength training and aerobic exercise with the relaxing effects of outdoor activities. Since kayaking can be done in almost any body of water, there are opportunities to change the scenery and enjoy the invigoration of outdoor exploration while also getting the benefits of exercise. Below are some of the ways that kayaking can improve your health and well-being.
One health benefit of kayaking is that it is an aerobic exercise. To get a kayak moving requires some work and will increase the heart rate which has a number of benefits. Aerobic exercise is extremely important and necessary for weight loss. Kayaking may burn between 200 and 400 calories per hour depending on the speed and effort put into it. Burning calories is an important aspect of weight loss. Since it is low impact and enjoyable, many people will spend hours at a time on the water which can really add up. Compare this to using a stationary bicycle or elliptical indoors which may burn calories at a higher rate but would not be enjoyable for hours at a time and does not include the beautiful scenery and fresh air that kayaking does.
Increased Cardiovascular Health
Since kayaking is an aerobic exercise, it can help improve cardiovascular health and endurance. While kayaking may make you feel tired, over time kayaking regularly will help strengthen your heart. When your heart gets stronger, it pumps blood more efficiently which improves circulation and may even lower blood pressure. In addition to strengthening your heart, kayaking regularly for exercise can increase your good cholesterol (HDL) while decreasing your bad cholesterol (LDL) which can help keep your arteries clear. Clearer arteries will reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Rowing or paddling works the muscles of the upper body: arms, shoulders, chest and back. The water provides resistance to help build strength without high impact which can injure joints. Since kayaking may require hundreds of strokes per mile, it acts as a low impact workout that will strengthen and tone the muscles of the upper body. In addition to strengthening your upper body, paddling requires some core strength and movement. Twisting from side to side to paddle a kayak engages your abdominal and oblique muscles. Training these core muscles can improve posture, increase the support for the spine to help prevent back pain, and improve balance.
Reduced Stress and Improved Mood
Exercise releases endorphins which improve your sense of well-being. This means that, in addition to the physical health benefits of kayaking, the aerobic exercise can improve your mood and feeling healthier may also boost self-confidence. While these benefits may be present for most exercise, kayaking adds the beneficial effects of time spent outdoors compared to running on a treadmill or using a rowing machine at your gym. Kayaking allows you to relax and unwind by enjoy the sights and soothing sounds of nature while also allowing you to get the exercise your body needs.
Dozens of kayakers each year drown or are injured, and most of these incidents are caused by human error. Here are some common-sense rules and guidelines to keep in mind:
- There is safety in numbers, so never kayak alone.
- Take kayaking lessons until you have mastered things like turning, controlling speed, recognizing currents, getting back up after tipping over, and performing a wet exit.
- Always wear the proper clothing to protect you from cold water and/or searing sunlight.
- Know the kayaking regulations and always respect the environment.
- All kayakers should be strong swimmers and know CPR.
- Carry a first aid kit, waterproof matches or a lighter, flares, sunscreen and a flashlight at all times.
- Be conscious of weather forecasts and carry a weather radio with you. Keep maps and a compass on hand in case your cell phone (which should be fully-charged and kept on hand in a sealed container for emergencies) is able to help with navigation.
- Stay hydrated and keep your life vest on and secured properly at all times. You should use a leash for your paddle and it might also a good idea to keep a water pump handy. Lastly, be courteous to other kayakers, boaters, swimmers, etc. so the water can be a safe and enjoyable place for everyone.
Kayaking isn’t only easy to learn; your mind and body will thank you, whether you kayak as a hobby or for sport. It doesn’t cost much to rent a kayak, take a few lessons or go kayaking with some experienced friends, and almost everyone has a body of water nearby that’s perfect for new kayakers. Where is your favorite spot to go kayaking for fishing or just to relax and enjoy nature? Let us know in the Comments section below.