Kayaking is perhaps the closest mankind can get to walking on water.
It gives us a unique opportunity to be fully immersed in marine environments. Whether you are an avid kayaker with thousands of hours on the water, or have only tried it once, kayaking is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
Surrounded by gorgeous scenery, wildlife and good company, it’s no secret why kayaking is on of the most popular outdoor water sports.
What may still remain a secret to some however, are the immense health benefits.
If you haven’t tried kayaking yet, or are considering logging extra paddle hours, here is a count down of the top 10 healthy reasons to get off that couch and into a kayak!
#10 Leg Strength
Kayaking may look easy, but don’t be fooled. This sport requires some incredibly dynamic muscle movement that can’t be mimicked in a gym. There is no motor on a kayak, so it is up to you to get yourself moving and stay moving. With the combined weight of the kayak and your body, that’s one hell of a job.
Let’s start with the least obvious, the legs. Your legs are your main stabilizer in a kayak. Legs allow you to keep your balance and provide yourself with leverage while paddling. This means that leg muscles are constantly engaged and contracted for potentially hours. If you’ve seen someone come up the beach with a funny waddle after kayaking, that’s why.
#9 Washboard Abs, Baby
The ab muscles and obliques power the movement to propel the kayak through the water. By rotating the torso and engaging the abs, the kayaker pushes the water behind the kayak for forward momentum. That’s a big job for those little abs. If you are trying to get a washboard stomach, definitely consider kayaking.
#8 Superman (or woman) Arms
You thought we were done? We haven’t even started on the arms!
After rotating the abs to move the paddle, the arms are responsible for keeping the paddle stable in and out of the water. This means biceps and triceps are repeatedly contracted as the paddle moves, providing an effective arm workout. The term “noodle arms” might sound familiar to those that have spent time paddling. Want arms of steel? Kayaking might be your answer.
#7 Let’s Talk About Cardio
Kayaking can be one hell of a cardio workout. Your body requires a lot of oxygen to keep your muscles active for paddling. This means your heart and lungs will have to work harder for increased oxygen intake. Your breathing will speed up, and your heart will beat harder. You may even start sweating. Don’t panic, these things are good for you! The benefits of increased respiratory activity are limitless, including a stronger heart, cleaner arteries, and body fat reduction.
The harder you work the heart, the more efficient it becomes. This means that the volume of blood pumped with each beat increases. Essentially, less work for more oxygen. A stronger heart also means less fat in the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.
#6 Weight Loss
Another thing that keeps your body moving is calories. Calories are stored in fat cells. The more you exercise, the more calories you use. The more calories you use, the smaller your fat cells become. Bing, bang, boom, here comes the weight loss! If you are looking to slim down, kayaking is a great way to lose those extra pounds.
#5 Vitamin D
Kayaking is done outside, so you’ll be soaking up those rays. If you use proper skin protection, there are great benefits to being in the sun. The body synthesizes most of our vitamin D from the sun, and vitamin D is very important in maintaining our health.
It maintains our teeth and bone health. It gives our immune system a boost to fight diseases. Vitamin D also enhances our nervous system and brain health. The best benefit of vitamin D is that it actually reduces our chances for cancer.
There are risks to being out in the sun though, like a sunburn. Make sure you lather up the sunscreen so you only absorb the good stuff!
#4 Exercise Makes You Happy
I’m pretty sure we’ve established by now that kayaking is a great workout. But did you know that exercise makes you happy? As Elle Woods once said “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!” Whether or not you are a Legally Blonde fan, you can’t argue with those facts.
Endorphins are a key hormone in serotonin production. Serotonin is really important in keeping your mood elevated and stabilized. So if you want to be happy, get yourself in a kayak and start paddling.
#3 Nature Makes You Happy
There is actual scientific proof these days that we need more time in nature. Nature allows us to unplug from our stressful lives and recenter. It is a wonderful source of meditation and stress reduction. When we are in nature, we are more connected to ourselves outside of the demands and pressure of modern day society.
Nature in general is super good for you, but marine habitats have their own specific effect on people. Environmental psychologists have done studies showing a great reduction in stress and elevation in mood when their subjects were exposed to bodies of water.
So what are you waiting for? Get into that kayak and out on the water!
#2 You’ll Make Friends
The number one way we connect with people is through shared interests. The kayaking community is full of water and nature loving people who like to connect with fellow enthusiasts.
As humans, we need friends to feel fulfilled and connected, and there are many health benefits to having friends. Friendships reduce stress, improve self worth and self esteem and give of a sense of meaning in our lives.
Kayaking allows us to form friendships that are special. They are connected through our love of nature and exercise. And, as I said earlier, nature and exercise makes you happy. Chances are you’ll be surrounded by a community of happy people who can’t stop smiling.
#1 Kayaking Gives You Purpose
When we regularly do something we love, it gives us a sense of purpose. It breaks up the monotony of life and provides something to look forward to.
Kayaking allows us opportunity to set goals, improve ourselves in our sport and learn more about nature. It fosters a sense of stewardship for nature. When we spend more time in nature, we want to take care of it.
Paddling gives us a personal identifier that makes us feel unique and interesting. When you identify as a kayaker, you know you are a part of something profound. We are a part of a community that cares about health, happiness and nature.
Yes, you will get buff. Yes, you will be way happier. Yes, you will sleep like the dead. But above all, the best health incentive to kayak is because you will love it. It will help you feel connected to this earth and the people around you. You will find yourself and what is important to you. And best of all, it will give you purpose.
Motivated to start kayaking? Make sure to check out our best kayak main guide for more information on which kayak you should start with!