Sports enthusiasts and medical professionals will all agree that there are plenty of health benefits of canoeing and kayaking. Like most sports, paddling a kayak or a canoe can help to improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you’re wondering what exactly the health benefits of canoeing and kayaking are, here we’ll give you ten of them. Aside from fun, these are probably some of the more important reasons why you should get started with kayaking or canoeing.
1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Paddling a kayak or a canoe is one form of aerobic exercise, and such exercises are always good for the heart. The brisk and intense movements required to paddle can help elevate your heart rate, and this, in turn, makes it stronger and healthier.
2. Weight Loss
Obviously, to get the kayak to move in the direction you want it to, you’ll need to paddle. And working that kayak paddle, especially against the current, requires effort and movement, and this, in turn, will require energy. In short, if you want to burn those excess calories, then kayaking could help you do just that.
Of course, kayaking or canoeing isn’t as intense as sprinting or doing laps in the pool, so you really can’t expect to burn as many calories in this sport. However, remember that when you go kayaking, you’ll probably be paddling for several hours on end (even if you didn’t think about it when planning your kayaking trip), and depending on the intensity of your paddling activity, you may end up burning a significant amount of calories.
3. Upper Body Workout
If you’ve ever seen someone paddling in a kayak or a canoe, then you can already probably imagine why this sport helps to build your upper body (unless you’re thinking of someone using a pedal kayak). Executing a good stroke, which includes lifting the paddle out of the water, putting it back in, and then pulling the water towards you, requires the involvement of various muscles in your upper body such as your arms, back, and shoulders. And remember, you’ll have to do it hundreds of times to get your boat moving. All in all, this provides you with a low-impact exercise that can help build and tone your upper body.
4. Strengthens Your Core Muscles
Your core muscles are one of the most important muscle groups in your body and are responsible for keeping the body in an upright position. A strong core is also necessary for us to do even the simplest tasks like lifting, bending, and others. As it happens, a paddling session on a kayak or canoe is one exercise that can help us strengthen this important muscle group.
When you’re paddling, you’re sitting on the boat and turning your upper body from one side to the other. By doing so, you are actually doing a sort of min-crunch which attacks your abdominal and lower back muscles, thereby exercising them in the process. Repeat this hundred of times over a paddling session, and you’ve basically done a form of abs workout. It may not be as challenging as a full crunch or sit-up, but even this little bit of exercise can do wonders over time.
5. Tones Legs
When people hear of paddling as an exercise, they immediately think of it as an upper-body workout. Rarely do they think of it being beneficial for the legs and lower extremities as well? This is quite understandable considering all they see moving are the paddler’s arms while their legs are completely hidden from view (unless you’re using a sit-on-top kayak). However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t use your legs when kayaking.
Your legs play an important role when it comes to kayaking. You use them to secure yourself in the kayak and in balancing and maneuvering it. By applying pressure on your legs when turning and balancing the kayak, you’re tightening and loosening your leg muscles countless times. This, in turn, becomes a form of exercise, which over time leads to stronger and more toned leg muscles.
6. Reduce Stress
Kayaking and canoeing can also be a therapeutic exercise and is great for relieving stress. For some people, this comes by way of paddling furiously against raging rapids and maneuvering through difficult waterscapes. For others, this may be a simple as sitting on an inflatable kayak and floating lazily on the water.
Also, many paddling destinations are located in idyllic locations far from the hustle and bustle of the city. Spending a few hours on calm waters, under the blue sky, and surrounded by the soothing sights and sounds of nature during the weekend can help you recharge your batteries and help you get ready when you get back to your office.
7. Mental Well-being
If you’ve been feeling down lately or need a boost of happiness, why not grab a recreational kayak or a canoe and do some paddling? Research has shown that exercises, especially aerobic exercises, helps to trigger the brain into releasing “happy” hormones which can help improve a person’s mood.
Besides, engaging in worthwhile activities like kayaking and canoeing allows you some time to clear your mind of negative thoughts. Being on a river or lake and getting busy paddling helps take your mind off things, sort of like “drowning your sorrows” healthily and positively.
8. Better Social Relationships
Social interactions and relationships are beneficial to your mental and emotional well-being, and when your mind and soul are at peace, your body is sure to benefit as well.
Like many other sports, getting on a kayak or a canoe allows you to interact and mingle with other people. They can be someone you know like your family or friends, or a stranger you just met at the dock or the kayak shop. In any case, going on a kayaking or canoeing trip (whether you’re paddling in a tandem kayak or separate ones) with others is a great way to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones, and this can have tremendous effects on your mental and emotional health.
9. Builds a Positive Self-image
The way you perceive yourself can have a huge impact on your mental and emotional well-being. When you have low self-esteem, it hinders you from enjoying certain activities which can have a huge impact on your health. Low self-esteem also makes you prone to stress and anxiety, which then causes your body to release harmful hormones that can negatively affect your overall health.
Kayaking or canoeing can help you build a positive self-image and boost your self-satisfaction as you achieve one milestone after another like paddling a longer distance than you did last time or overcoming challenging rapids and emerging victorious on your whitewater kayak at the end. Even small wins, like simply overcoming your fear of water and getting on a kayak or canoe for the first time can do so much in making you feel better about yourself.
10. Increases Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is crucial to a person’s overall health. It is necessary for calcium absorption and bone development as well as a host of other body processes. There are also studies showing that Vitamin D plays an important role in the prevention of certain diseases and maladies.
Although we can get Vitamin D from the foods we eat, research has shown that this isn’t usually enough. In fact, Vitamin D is one of the most difficult vitamins to get from food alone. That said, it appears that the best and most natural way to top up on our Vitamin D stores is by going outside and soaking up the golden rays from the sun.
Kayaking and canoeing, being outdoor sports, are good ways of providing our bodies with that much-needed vitamin. By spending significant amounts of time under the sun and on the water, you will be able to increase your Vitamin D intake. Just remember to lather on some sunscreen to keep away sunburns. If possible, use sunscreen for watersports as this has more effective SPF protection (which is necessary for water-related activities) and won’t wash away easily.
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Paddling in a kayak or a canoe comes with a host of benefits for the body, mind, and soul. From strengthening your muscles to relaxing and rejuvenating your mind and creating happier and more positive relationships, nobody can deny the many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of canoeing and kayaking. Even if you’re already hitting the gym for most of the week, you should still consider giving this sport a try considering the different canoeing and kayaking health benefits mentioned above.
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