Kayaking for the Health Benefits – Physical and Mental

Most of us do not get into kayaking for the health benefits. Let me tell you though, from a personal stand point, there are a lot of health benefits associated with the sport of kayaking. No matter what type of kayaking you are into.

Let us break this down a bit and you will see what I am talking about.

Let’s Get Physical

Most of us think that getting exercise or getting physically fit requires a gym or a regimented program. I personally am not a gym rat, nor do I want to be.

I love hiking outdoors and taking a stroll along the lake. Beats a treadmill every time.

What’s that have to do with kayaking you ask?

Well, think about that awful rowing machine at the gym. You sit on that man-made contraption and row till your arms fall off and all you see are the same four walls where you started.

Now, equate that rowing machine to a kayak. Launch that fine little boat into the river, lake or stream and grab your paddle, a bottle of water, maybe a healthy snack and just imagine the scenery you are going to see. Don’t forget your life jacket, just in case you end up in the water for a swim.

Kayaking has many physical benefits. You are going to work your arms, your legs, your core, your shoulders, and I’m sure there are a few other muscles in there that you don’t even know you have. You will after you get done though.

What Muscles Are Used During Kayaking

As I mentioned above you will use many muscles while you kayak. As a 51 yr. young woman, I enjoy the fact that kayaking is a low-impact sport. Unlike running, kayaking is relatively easy on my knees, hips and other joints that are not as young as they used to be.

Although, it is important to learn to do it with proper form. We do not want to do more damage than good. Check out my post about “Proper Posture” to gain the best benefits from you kayaking experience.

The main muscles used are as follows

Core Muscles – Abdomen, Obliques and Lower Back

Arms and Shoulders – Biceps, Triceps, Deltoid muscle (Rear, Lateral and Anterior) and your Forearms

Chest – Pectoral

Back – Lats and Rhomboids

You will also use your legs to a certain degree to brace yourself on the sides of the kayak when paddling. Thus, giving you a bit of a leg workout.

5 Key Physical Benefits

  1. Weight loss – This one is quite obvious. The more quality physical activity we do, along with reducing our calorie intake can reduce weight.
  2. Muscle Toning and Building – Again, kind of a no brainer. If you apply resistance (water), as with weight training, in a gym you can tone and strengthen your muscles. Since kayaking uses so many, just think of all that you will be achieving, if done on a regular basis.
  3. Improves Cardiovascular Health – Anytime you get your heart rate up for any period of time, it strengthens the heart muscle. Not a bad thing, and kayaking is certainly more fun than running on a treadmill.
  4. More Energy – It has been documented by many medical and health related sources that anytime you increase your activity levels, even with moderate intensity exercise, like kayaking, you can reduce fatigue and boost energy.
  5. Great Source of Vitamin D – I read that it’s estimated that 45%-75% of people are deficient in vitamin D. We do not get enough in the foods we eat, but isn’t it awesome that our bodies can produce it from sunshine. So, get out in the sun!

Let’s Talk Mental Benefits of Kayaking

You ask, how is this going to help me mentally?

For anyone that suffers from stress, fatigue, unhappiness, loneliness, lack of confidence, and the list goes on. One of the best things you can do for yourself is get outside, get close to nature, do something that helps build your confidence. Believe me I can really relate to those that have these issues.

As a teenager I was pretty fearless and had enough confidence for many people. I was going to take on the world. I rode horses, was athletic, slender and in pretty good shape. As I have grown older and have had children, my body has changed and so has my health and confidence levels. I went from being fearless to fearful about a lot of things. So I understand the mental anguish some folks go through.

Kayaking has helped me be a bit more confident. My first trip out on the lake just about made me throw-up. I was by myself, on a lake full of boaters and I had never been on a kayak. I crossed the lake/river and went up a small tributary. This is where I fell in love with my little red boat. The peace of floating up that little stream surrounded by birds, turtles and trees was just amazing. Now when I go out I do not fear being out there alone, I look forward to it.

7 Mental Benefits to Think About

  1. Helps Reduce Stress – Unplug (don’t check social media, leave the TV), Only use your phone for pictures or emergencies. Get your heart rate up, exercise can help reduce stress. Let your mind be quiet.
  2. Feel Happier – Just being out in nature improves my mood. Nothing makes me happier than the sunshine on my face.
  3. Improved Focus – Due to the release of certain things in your system during exercise, such as serotonin, dopamine, and nor epinephrine, helps your brain focus and attention.
  4. Improved Memory – Exercise and increased activity releases chemicals that help the health and production of brain cells.
  5. Improves Sleep – The exercise that you get while kayaking helps to reduce stress and it tires us out. Thus, helping us to fall asleep better at night.
  6. Boosts Self Confidence – This was a big one for me. Anytime you do something new and accomplish a victory, no matter how small, it boosts your confidence. Accept the challenge! It is worth it.
  7. Social Bonding – Find a group that is doing what you want to do. There are groups that get together on a regular basis and do float trips, go fishing, etc. Have fun with it and make new friends.

Paddle Your Stress Away

Now that you know about all the great health benefits of kayaking, I challenge you to get out there and enjoy yourselves. If you need a kayak buddy look me up! Let me know in the comments how your kayaking adventures are going. I would love to hear your stories.

Until next time!