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Is Kayaking Good Exercise?

Many imagine themselves sitting and calmly paddling along on flat waters when they hear “kayaking”. This is definitely one of the experiences you can have out on the water, but there’s a lot more going on physically to keep you and your boat moving along smoothly. Additionally, you can seek out rapids to kayak down, or even take on ocean kayaking for a more intense experience. Regardless of how you get on the water, you’ll reap the health benefits of exercise with kayaking.

Even though you’re seated while in the boat, kayaking is great exercise in a number of ways. It can help you strengthen and tone necessary muscle groups, provide a low-impact cardio activity, and help you develop regular exercise habits that get you out in nature. In our books, kayaking is great exercise!

Kayaking Exercise Benefits

Strength training

While there aren’t any formal weights involved, there are elements of strength building inherent to this style of activity. The water resistance that you experience when pulling your paddle through the water builds strength, especially if you move into water with a stronger current or rapids.

In addition to paddling, loading up your kayak and gear, transporting it to the waterfront, and unloading again can be a workout in itself if you are going solo. These benefits are particularly impactful when you’re first starting out with kayaking.

You can enjoy strength-training kayak exercise for legs when using a pedal kayak. The same water resistance that benefits your arms when paddle kayaking, will get your legs in shape – quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles – with a pedal kayak!

Full body workout

Kayaking is definitely beneficial exercise for your arms, but what most don’t realize is that it engages your core, lats, and back muscles in a meaningful way, as well. It takes good core and lower back stability to maintain proper posture and balance while paddling--the twisting paddling motion as you cross over from one side to another further tones these muscle groups as well.

Your legs are used mostly for stability as well, while your core is engaged, as you can brace and correct with them if the boat starts to tip over. Regardless of the type of kayak you have, your legs are a key tool in helping shift your weight as necessary across your journey to keep on course, steady yourself, or respond quickly to your environment.

Low-impact cardio

Unlike jogging or running, kayaking requires constant movement without the extra strain on your knees or other joints. With kayaking you’re usually seated, and the main paddle movement is in your arms and shoulders, while your lower body steadies and balances throughout the journey, or pedals when using a pedal kayak. In this respect, kayaking is considered a relatively low- impact exercise.

Versatile & adaptable exercise

The variety in scenery, location, and difficulty level of the place you choose to paddle or pedal contributes to kayaking being good exercise. Just as though  it’s not the most exciting or healthy to run the exact same course everyday, so, too, is it not always the best to kayak the same route every time. Whether you’re looking for an ocean adventure, thrilling rapids, or a relaxed river paddle or pedal, each provides variety and further training in whichever area you need.

Stress relief

While stress is mental and emotional in nature, it does have physical manifestations, as well. Not only does exercise of any kind help manage and mitigate the long-term impact of chronic stress on your body, it can do a lot of good for your mental health, too. We already know the benefits of being in nature for your mental health, and kayaking allows you to throw in some mild-to-moderate exercise with it, too! An activity that is good for both your mental and physical health is a no-brainer in our book!

So whether paddling, pedaling, on calm waters, or taking on the rapids, kayaking is a great exercise workout for the whole family.



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