Is Kayaking Good Exercise? – Kayak Workouts

Is kayaking good exercise?

Is kayaking good exercise?

We comprehend how this may be a valid query. Whether all you ever see are kayaking images like the one up above, it might be simple to question if kayaking is a good kind of fitness.

In fact, kayaking is a great upper body workout. Your back, shoulders, upper and lower arms, as well as your abdominal, may all be strengthened with the right form.

The technique is the key in the situation. Kayaking is a good workout if done correctly; otherwise, you run the danger of injuring your back, arms, or core muscles.

We advise novices to take a class to learn how to paddle a kayak because of this. Although there is a wealth of information regarding appropriate paddling methods online, nothing beats having a trainer critique your form in person and provide advice.

For harder types of kayaking, such as whitewater kayaking and kayak surfing, this is particularly crucial. The risk of damage increases as your main paddling activity gets more technical.

Fortunately, this guide will provide you with a ton of advice on how to kayak effectively and securely. We’ll also provide some tips on how to push yourself to make kayaking an even more difficult workout as your abilities and stamina improve.

Is Kayaking Good Exercise?

It certainly is possible! Kayaking has the flexibility to be as leisurely or rigorous as you choose, which is one of its finest features.

You are more than welcome to paddle a short distance along the shore before relaxing in your kayak. You may also pace yourself and attempt to paddle 4-5 miles in less than two hours.

Your paddles may be made to be as long or short as you choose. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that various circumstances could need a variety of paddling excursions.

While your morning “workout” paddles may easily cover six miles in a couple of hours, your relaxing afternoon paddle with friends may only cover one or two miles.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you see kayaking as a kind of workout or leisure activity. It may either be a substitute for or an addition to your current workout regimen.

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What Muscles Does Kayaking Work?

You probably know precisely which muscles kayaking uses if you’ve lately paddled. Of course, if you were using the proper method. These are the muscles that kayaking should be engaging when done correctly.

Kayaking provides a full-body workout that hits a variety of muscle areas in addition to burning calories. Those who have joint problems can still be able to participate in the activity since it has a very minimal impact.

12 main muscular groups in the body, including the abs, biceps, triceps, lats, deltoids (shoulder), quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (backside), quads (front side), glutes (buttocks), and calves, are all worked out by kayaking. Because kayaking is repetitive, it’s a great method to build arm, back, shoulder, and body muscles.

You’ll see a growth in muscularity and strength after each session since the activity uses every muscle in the body. Gaining muscle will boost the number of calories expended, which will hasten weight reduction.

The back and shoulders get an excellent workout with kayaking maneuvers. Lifting the paddle forward and to the front when rowing requires you to shift your weight from your lats to your shoulders and simultaneously work your anterior, lateral, and rear deltoids in a quick, single motion. Since this is an isometric action, your muscles are being worked statically.

Finally, since it is performed standing against gravity while simultaneously moving both arms in opposite directions, it also provides a complete upper-body and core workout. As you steady yourself on waves or rough water to avoid falling or capsizing, this strengthens the whole torso region.


After a few hours of kayaking, the majority of individuals report feeling this muscular burning. Specifically, during your forward stroke, the blade of your kayak paddle is pulled through the water by your posterior deltoids.

We engage our posterior deltoids far more than their anterior relatives while kayaking since we spend the majority of our time moving forward rather than backward. You may become muscularly unbalanced as a result, which increases your risk of injury.

Because of this, many kayakers discover that they need to work out their anterior deltoids just as much as their posterior deltoids by going to the gym or engaging in other exercises. An experienced kayaker will most likely get an injury if this is not done.

Maintaining a good “paddler’s box” at all times is one method that you may assist prevent damage to your shoulders as a novice. This describes the rectangular shape that is formed inside of your arms and the paddle shaft when you position the shaft on top of your head.


So, rather than being a single muscle, this is really a muscular group. Kayaking exercises your lats, lower and upper trapezius, and rhomboids, among other back muscles.

The biggest muscles in your back, the lats, contract each time you take a good forward stroke. These muscles get energy from your lower body and use it to assist in pulling your arm back and toward your body.

At the very conclusion of your forward paddle stroke, your rhomboids aid in pulling your scapula back. Focusing on rhomboid contraction might really be a crucial indicator for good posture and appropriate kayaking technique since they draw your shoulder blades forward.

Finally, your trapezius muscles help to rotate and bend your neck and spine in addition to moving your shoulders up and down. Being conscious of your middle and lower traps is crucial since many kayakers misuse their upper trapezius muscles.

Arms and hands

There are many new kayakers that complain about this muscle area. Because they have to keep in touch with their kayak paddle, their hands and fingers often tire the quickest.

There is no need to hold your kayak paddle with a “white-knuckle” grip, I like to inform all of my beginner kayakers. Particularly when you start to paddle further distances, you should maintain your fingers as flexible and relaxed as possible.

Consequently, your forearms and hands are what convey all of the force from your lower body, core, shoulders, back, chest, and arms to your kayak paddle.

This is why kayaking is great for improving your grip strength in addition to being a great workout for the rest of your body.

For novices, keeping your enthusiasm for kayaking alive requires preventing wrist problems. These accidents often happen while you are paddling and your wrists are bent more frequently than they are straight.

Focus on maintaining straight, locked wrists relative to your forearms. Stress-related illnesses like carpal tunnel syndrome will be lessened by this.

Upper Arms

These are most likely the muscles that you had in mind when you originally considered taking up kayaking. The good news is that kayaking may unquestionably increase your triceps and biceps strength.

Your arms, shoulders, and back are probably tied for the most often utilized muscles when kayaking. But because your biceps and triceps muscles cooperate, there is no rivalry between them.

During a forward stroke, your bicep contracts in the pulling arm and your tricep contracts in the pushing arm as you draw one blade of your kayak paddle towards you (the opposite one).

The biceps and triceps are frequently referred to as the “Agonist-Antagonist” pair because of their push-pull nature. Additionally, it explains why kayaking gives both muscle groups an equal, steady workout.

Legs and Hips

You may be a little surprised by this one since when you imagine paddling a kayak, your lower body is usually the last thing on your mind. However, while kayaking, your legs, and hips put forth a lot of effort to transmit energy to your upper body and assist in stabilizing your core.

Pushing your feet up against the adjustable or built-in footrests in your kayak’s cockpit is proper kayaking form. A correct kayaking stroke starts at the moment when your feet touch the kayak.

Energy is then transported into your core, legs, back, shoulder, chest, and arm muscles from there. Kayaking can quickly turn into a full-body workout with the appropriate technique, not to mention the work your legs and hips perform when you start experimenting with more difficult movements like the lie-back method.


The muscle area that novice kayakers most often neglect is their core, in my view. When starting to kayak, there is a natural inclination to depend too much on your shoulders and upper arms, which causes those muscles to tire pretty rapidly.

The widespread fallacy is that in order to increase the strength of your paddle strokes, you must lean over and exert more force during your pulling action. In reality, a small rotation of the core is part of the appropriate paddling technique (instead of a lean of the entire torso).

You most likely won’t even notice your knowledgeable kayaking guide doing this action since it is so subtle. Until you bring up trunk rotation during your class, he or she may not even be aware that they are practicing it.

Your abdominal and oblique muscles function to support your core and aid in maintaining balance in your kayak in addition to being the primary powerhouses behind your paddle stroke.

In many respects, when you are kayaking, your core muscles never stop functioning. This is one of the main explanations for why kayaking may aid in weight loss and the burning of abdominal fat.


Your chest muscles will aid to push your other arm out from your body while your shoulders and arms are striving to draw one of your arms into your body.

You may even sit in a chair and put one hand over the opposing chest muscle (either left or right, it doesn’t matter). the side of the chest muscle you are touching, and then slowly twist your body in that direction.

As you rotate, your core will move similarly to when you are paddling. As your body rotates, you should be able to feel your chest muscles contracting vigorously.

Heart and Lungs

Kayaking may be a good cardio workout if you chose to make it one, but not everyone does. Studies have shown that you may burn up to 500 calories in one hour of kayaking, making it a good cardiovascular workout for persons healing from lower-body problems!

Is Kayaking Good Cardio Workout?

Here is a list of kayak exercises you may add to your regular workout program. If you are not already exercising, keep in mind that you should begin slowly and build up your endurance over time. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a challenging new workout regimen.

You should concentrate on these four areas while selecting a workout program to help you reach your kayaking goals:

  • Boost the strength of your core muscles. Your core muscles provide you with both steadiness and power throughout a stroke. Abdominal and back exercises can assist you to build these muscles and enhance your skill set.
  • Build up your arm and shoulder muscles to aid with endurance. Since both of these muscular groups must be constantly in motion throughout a stroke sequence, kayakers must have strong shoulders and arms.
  • Enhanced balance. Increasing the strength of your core muscles can help you balance better. By giving you a sturdy foundation, a strong base will make it easier and more efficient for you to go through your paddling action.

Don’t forget your cardio. For an added boost, use interval training. Swimming is the best since it uses the most muscle groups, but cycling or running are also great options.

Kayaking Exercises Benefits

In addition to being a great form of exercise, kayaking has many other advantages for your health.

Both the physical and emotional health advantages are substantial. Kayaking is great for the mind since it lets kayakers explore new places while exercising outside in the fresh air. Exercise, as we all know, produces endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals. Regular exercise is recognized to improve mood and well-being in general.

Making new acquaintances is simple since kayaking is a well-liked pastime. Finding new acquaintances as an adult might be difficult. It’s often advised to pick up a new pastime so you can meet people. If you decide to go kayaking often, you could run across some new acquaintances who have similar interests to your own, which might lead to the development of new friendships and connections.

Furthermore, a kayak excursion need not be limited to kayaking. It may be combined with outdoor pursuits like cycling, hiking, or camping. Go on the ideal kayak camping adventure with your pals. Use this guide to assist you in organizing a kayak-friendly camping trip. It includes everything from essentials to destinations around the United States.

Moreover, kayaking serves as more than a thrilling journey through the waves; it’s a robust workout for the entire body. By employing the muscles of both the arms and legs, participants not only experience the joy of the waters but also fortify their strength, stamina, and heart health. For women eager to dive into this exhilarating pastime, specially crafted kayaks await them.

Tailored to the feminine physique, these best kayaks for women boast a slender build and lightweight structure, accompanied by customizable seating. Such thoughtful engineering ensures effortless navigation and control on the water. Whether novice or expert, women can embrace this aquatic adventure, reaping the physical rewards and savoring the sensation of skimming across the surface of a lake or river.

Can kayaking help you lose weight?

Kayaking is a fun and efficient type of exercise that may help you lose weight when combined with a smart diet.

As you are surely aware, weight loss calls for a calorie deficit. You must consume less calories daily than your body requires. As you are well aware, playing this activity helps you lose weight by burning more than 300 to 400 calories every hour.

Paddling is a great low-impact activity for preventing ligament and joint damage. This is crucial for persons who are very overweight and are searching for an activity that won’t hurt them or result in injuries.

However, if your primary goal is weight loss, other types of exercise might burn more calories. For instance:

  • 504 calories per hour for step aerobics
  • 648 calories per hour on an elliptical trainer
  • Exercise: 432 calories per hour
  • Running 10 minutes/mile at 6 mph burns 720 calories per hour.

How many calories are expended in kayaking?

Per hour of paddling, kayaking burns 300–420 calories. According to research from Harvard Medical School, the weight of the kayaker affects how many calories are burned:

  • An hour of kayaking will burn 300 calories for a 125-pound individual.
  • An hour of kayaking will burn 360 calories for a 155-pound individual.
  • 185-pound individual kayaking for an hour will use 420 calories.
  • As you can see, paddling is an enjoyable approach to burn-resistant fat.

Depending on how much you weigh, different amounts of calories are expended. A 150 lb individual may kayak for an hour and burn more than 350 calories. You will burn more fat if you weigh more since moving your body will need more energy.

Of course, in order for it to benefit your body, you have to really paddle. It is impossible to burn calories by just floating along a river.

Is Kayaking a Good Back Pain Exercise?

There are many different causes that might cause back discomfort. It may develop as a consequence of an accident or muscular stiffness in other parts of the body (and those are just a couple of examples).

For a few reasons, the topic of whether kayaking is a good form of exercise for back pain is tricky.

It may first rely on the origin and degree of your back discomfort. There could be more moderate exercises you should think about doing before kayaking if, for example, you find it difficult to even get into a kayak or can hardly walk.

However, kayaking may aid in the development of certain muscles that will assist to reduce back discomfort. Let’s first talk more about the effects of kayaking on your back before we examine the muscles we are talking about.

The Function of the Iliopsoas in Back Pain

While kayaking normally doesn’t bother your lower back, it does make a certain back of it contract. The muscles that link the iliacus and psoas together are known collectively as the iliopsoas.

These muscles are kept apart in our abdomens but come together in the upper thigh. This muscle’s pain often begins in the front of your hips, although it sometimes spreads to your thighs and knees.

Additionally, the upper buttocks and lower back may experience discomfort if this muscle is too tight and shortened.

Preventing It

Stretching may help with many chronic injuries. No, you don’t need to practice advanced yoga to get rid of all of your back pain difficulties.

Stretching for only 5 to 10 minutes each day may do wonders for your body. However, while you are paddling kayaking, your back and leg muscles may naturally tense and contract.

Therefore, it is a good idea to include frequent stretching into your paddling excursions. To maintain your muscles flexible and slim, this includes stretching both before and after your time on the water.

You may be amazed by how much stretching for five minutes as you wait for your paddle can affect how you feel afterward.

On the other hand, do you really need to rush to your next activity after your paddle without taking five more minutes to stretch?

When Do Most Back Injuries From Kayaking Occur?

In my experience, transporting a kayak about on land is when individuals really get the majority of kayak-related injuries. Consider how much more work it takes to maneuver a kayak on land as opposed to while it is floating in the water. It may seem counterintuitive at first.

Your back will be placed under a lot more stress than it would while you are really paddling when you lift your kayak onto and off of your roof rack and carry it to the water’s edge.

Because of this, the majority of seasoned kayakers don’t truly give up because they can no longer paddle. Instead, many give up because their bodies are no longer capable of enduring the demands of securely carrying a kayak.

The good news is that there are shortcuts and techniques to avoid exerting a lot of physical effort just to get your kayak to the ocean. By selecting one of the top kayak carts, trolleys, or wheels, you may completely avoid carrying your kayak.

Good Kayak Technique: It’s Important

Paddling with good technique is crucial whether you are taking a leisurely paddle or racing rapids in one of the finest whitewater kayaks. Let’s sum up by emphasizing the significance of using appropriate kayaking techniques.

Kayak Guarantees Longevity

If we aren’t keeping a balance with any outside activity or workout routine, we are far more prone to burnout. The good news is that kayaking alone gives your body a well-balanced workout.

However, if we don’t pick up good technique from the start, we run the danger of hurting ourselves so badly that we can’t continue to enjoy kayaking for a very long time!

It Cuts Down on Fatigue

The muscles in your shoulders and upper arms will rapidly exhaust if you are just utilizing them to propel your kayak. Those muscles won’t have to work as hard if you refine your technique to include the rest of your body.

The overarching advantage of lowering your weariness when kayaking is that you’ll be able to paddle further and discover more secluded areas. Long river lengths and overnight paddling adventures are only possible with excellent kayaking techniques.

It Stops Injuries

You may prevent overuse injuries by paddling correctly. Kayaking is really one of the most balanced exercises you can perform, as you can see.

However, if you paddle incorrectly, you run a larger chance of hurting the muscle group that is trying to make up for your improper form.

Does Kayaking Promote Weight Loss and Burn Belly Fat?

It most certainly can! Most novices believe that kayaking is a reasonably easy sport that simply calls for upper body strength.

There is no possible way that this is true!

Kayaking is a naturally heart-healthy activity that may help you burn between 400 and 500 calories each hour. It doesn’t matter whether you’re paddling sloppily or hard—this is true.

In addition, a crucial component of having a good paddling technique is using our core muscles. Your abdominal and oblique muscles provide the majority of the force behind your paddle stroke when your trunk is rotated properly.

Your core muscles will also be working continuously to support you while you maintain your balance within your kayak in addition to this task. If you’re new to the sport, you’ll see that this is the case right away.

After an hour or two on the water, it’s not unusual for inexperienced kayakers to feel as if they’ve done a few hundred crunches!

Read more: How fast is a pedal kayak?

In conclusion, Is Kayaking Good Exercise?

Paddling isn’t often associated with fitness when it comes to kayakers, but it really benefits your muscles and cardiovascular system more than you would realize.

It also exercises your legs and hips in addition to your upper body. Additionally, it increases your metabolism, aiding in the removal of fat from different body parts and leaving you thin and flexible.

Kayaking is an outdoor exercise that will never grow bored, unlike other workouts that get tiresome due to how repetitive they are.

Remember that you are receiving great exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle the next time you are out on the lake navigating rapids or hauling in a fish.


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