Kayaking is becoming more and more popular as time goes on, and with the proven health benefits, it is easy to see why more people are taking up the water sport. There are several unique benefits of kayaking that are all around excellent for your physical and mental health which goes to show that water sports such as kayaking are not only fun, they are great for your overall well-being.
Whether you have been a kayaking enthusiast for years or if you are brand new to the sport, all kayak hobbyists can agree that this sport continues to prove to be beneficial time and time again. No matter is you seek benefits such as weight loss, fitness goals, or finding a piece of happiness amongst the natural world, or looking to make a few new friends, kayaking will be able to provide all of these benefits, and more.
Indian Head – Credit: en.wikipedia.org
1. Core development
As you paddle your kayak, your core muscles will be the most engaged- as long as you are using proper technique. Your upper and lower abdominals will be strengthened as you balance and control your paddle and the kayak. Not to mention, your lower abdominals will be working the entire time you are out on the water. The torso and core is the first area in which kayaking exercises targets, engages, and builds.
Every time you turn the kayak left or right, you will be engaging these muscles. When you first start kayaking, these muscles can feel sore. As time goes on, you will no longer feel soreness in your abdominals because these muscles will begin to feel accustomed to being used in this way. The longer you kayak, the easier it will be to engage your abdominals.
However, the longer you kayak, the more you will have to put extra effort into creating a workout for your abdominals. This can be done by simply turning the kayak left and right repeatedly as you paddle across the water. Similarly, the more difficult the water type is, the harder your abdominals will have to work.
Over time, you will notice that your abdominals are slimming down as well as looking more toned and well defined. When you first start kayaking, it will seem that your abdominals are easily starting to make an impression. As mentioned above, you will need to make sure that your abs can assist you throughout your kayaking excursion. However, it is quite important that maintain high levels of improvement during your kayaking hobby.
2. Making new friends
Kayaking can be much more enjoyable when you can do so with friends, or a group of like-minded individuals. Even if you do not have someone to kayak with when you first start, that will quickly change. In the kayaking world, there are several different clubs, meet ups, or groups that are always looking for a new member to join them on their kayaking adventures.
Since kayaking is such a versatile sport, as anyone can do it, you will encounter all types of people on the river. Before you know it, you will begin to make friends as kayaking is a very social sport and if you join a kayaking club, you will spark new friendships almost immediately. Several kayakers enjoy going to a river with new people as kayaking is a great way to bond and find similarities amongst other kayakers.
Kayaking clubs are a great way to make new friends and stay social, but many clubs are not strict on how often you join them as meet ups are based on your schedule. This allows for members to attend meet ups when you can without being committed to attending every single meet up. The flexibility alone attracts many members and you could find yourself meeting someone new each time there is a meet up.
3. Reduces stress
Taking the kayak out on a calm river can be very soothing for many individuals. Stress levels are known to be reduced each time you take the kayak out for a journey. Focusing on the paddling and steering the kayak will take precedence and before long you will find a cadence that will allow you to take your mind off of everything else in your life.
WHEN YOU GO KAYAKING, YOU WILL HAVE REDUCED STRESS BY:
- Breathing fresh air (make sure to take deep breaths as you go. This will not only make sure you are getting enough oxygen while you exercise, the deep breaths will work to relax you.)
- Getting exercise
- Being surrounded by nature
- Clearing your mind
- Relaxing and enjoying the scenery around you
Many kayakers find that calm waters are soothing to hear and the calming effect of the sound of the water combined with the deep breathing helps to bring them back to their center. This relaxation technique is used to effectively reduce levels of stress and anxiety. In combination with the natural scenery, you will soon find your troubles melting away.
De-stressing through kayaking is not only effective in a quality and easy way, it is becoming a popular way to rid your life of negative impacts or high levels of stress.
4. Builds strength
Kayaking will build your overall strength, inside and out. As mentioned above, your abdominals will definitely see some attention once you start kayaking. Kayaking will engage nearly all of your muscles and you will be working out these muscle groups without even realizing it.
MUSCLES THAT ARE TARGETED IN ADDITION TO THE ABDOMINALS ARE:
- Legs: Both of your legs will get a great workout and they will become lean and strong over time. Your legs will have pressure applied to them while you are balancing and turning the kayak. The action of constantly squeezing your legs is known as an ‘isometric exercise’. Over time, the continued isometric exercise will strengthen your entire legs.
- Shoulders and Arms: The constant paddling will give your shoulders and arms more strength, circumference, and flexibility. When you take out your kayak the first time, you will be sore the next day because of the paddling. Even at moderate paces, you can paddle up to 500 times in just one mile. All this paddling directly benefits the shoulders and arms, but does so by engaging these areas in low impact way.
- Back Muscles: Paddling and balancing and controlling your kayaking strengthen your back muscles including your lower back and muscles along the spine. Just be sure to use good posture and gentle twisting motions as you paddle. Following good technique is not only safe, but will gently stretch and strengthen your back muscles. Over time, your back will become stronger and less susceptible to pain.
- Hips: As you paddle and control your kayak, you will be gently turning your hips from side to side. This simply motion will help your mobility and strengthen your hip joints. You will also find that your hips will become more flexible as well, but all in due time.
5. Getting fit
If you are looking to shed a few pounds, taking up kayaking is a great way to do so. The high intensity work out and muscle engagement allows for you to burn several calories in just a short while. In fact, if you reach and maintain a minimum speed of three to five miles an hour, you can burn anywhere from 400 to 480 calories.
The repetitions of the body movement while you paddle will begin to add up very quickly as well. On average, you will be paddling at least 500 times in one single mile. Consequently, if you are paddling at three miles an hour you will end up with at least 1500 repetitions of all the movements and muscle engagements that are involved in paddling. Even though it might not seem like much, over time you will become leaner.
The continuous motions of turning your torso from side to side while you paddle will flatten your stomach in no time. Not to mention your arms and legs will become more toned and defined, as well as stronger. Similarly, you will have increased stamina and will be able to kayak for longer periods of time and even on more difficult waters.
Just be sure to continuously increase your paddling speed and/or total paddling distance over time because as you become stronger and fit you will need more resistance in order to burn more calories. This will help you maintain your fitness goals as well as help them grow.
6. Good for cardio
When you can paddle at an increased pace, your heart rate will inevitably start to have an increased rate as well. Paddling by turning your body left and right in a continuous pattern can be done in a smooth, brisk motion if you are following the correct technique. Once this is achieved, you will be accelerating your heart beat. Elevated heart rate levels for continued periods of time, (at least half an hour) are proven to be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Raising your heart beat for extended periods of time will make your heart stronger. You are putting your heart to work every time you elevate your heart rate and the more you put it to work, the stronger your heart becomes. Having a strong, and therefore healthy, heart will reduce the risk of heart attack as well as heart disease. This is one of the ways kayaking helps your body’s health from the inside.
7. Low-cost barrier to entry
While there are several high end models, gear, and equipment available on the market, there are even more options available that are cost effective. Many kayakers, especially those who are starting out with the sport, find affordable means to enjoy the sport such as:
- Renting: Depending on the area you live in, there are companies or kayaking clubs that will allow you to hire all the required equipment for very fair prices. Usually, you can rent the kayak (there are several different types available), paddle(s), and life vest for a very fair price. Many places start from $35 for a full day hire. Please keep in mind that prices will vary.
- Secondhand Shopping: When kayakers decide to upgrade to another more advanced model, they usually put their old one up for sale. Refer to online communities, newspapers, or other advertisements to find out if anyone is selling a gently used kayak in your area. This is a great option for saving money.
- Purchasing Permits: Many National Parks or kayaking clubs will have packages or special prices for day or season permits in order to access the rivers. At best, you will be able to access the water without having to pay an entrance fee or need a day pass, but often times, especially in National Parks, you will need to have permits. Depending on where you want to kayak will determine what sort of permit or pass you will need. Prices and length of the permit will vary depending on your location.
Once you have everything you need to get started, you will be able to enjoy the sport right away. Often times, depending on the quality of the gear, you will not need to upgrade or replace an item for quite a long time. This makes your initial investment last quite some time and makes kayaking a more cost effective sport, especially when compared to others.
8. It’s fun
Besides all the physical and mental health benefits, kayaking is popular amongst all ages for this reason: fun. The versatility of the sport will provide kayakers a wide range of entertainment and enjoyment. No matter which water way you are looking for or which type of kayaking style you prefer, you are bound to find an adventure.
Kayaking can take you to places that most cannot reach without one. Whether you are searching for the quiet, secret cove or seeking out the fastest and wildest rapids out there, the journey and exploration alone will provide you a great adventure. Kayaking is an adaptable sport as well and you can take your kayak nearly everywhere, including, but not limited to:
There are several different types of kayaking, all of which are unique and excellent fun to take part in. Paddling opportunities can range from relaxing and leisurely on calm waters to racing or fighting currents and waves in rough and rowdy water ways.
SPECIFIC TYPES OF KAYAKING INCLUDE:
- White Water
No matter which type you choose to do, you can be sure that exploration and finding adventure will be a part of wherever you take your kayak. Just be sure to take along a friend or make it a family event for added excitement and great memories.
In addition to the different types of kayaking styles available to choose from, there are boundless areas and water types kayakers have the ability to explore. Around the world there are hundreds of thousands of different regions and water ways kayakers can explore that can provide a multitude of views, thrills, sense of calm or sense of adventure, and of course, great memories and good times.
9. Improves your mental wellbeing
As mentioned earlier, kayaking is an excellent way to reduce your stress levels. In addition to reducing your stress levels, kayaking is known to improve your overall mental health. As a matter of fact, the Journal of Leisurability researched kayaking to prove that there are several mental and emotional benefits to paddling that go beyond the relief of stress.
During the study, individuals who had previously experienced a brain injury of some degree (and therefore could not partake in all outdoor activities) were placed in a twelve week kayaking and paddling program. Throughout the study, the individuals were asked to rate their emotional and mental well-each day before and after they had taken the kayaks out on the water. According to the research and data found from the study, the emotional benefits gained from kayaking were monumental.
After participation in the twelve week kayaking and paddling program, the group’s overall average score increased significantly and enhanced in areas such as:
- Physical appearance
- Sense of worth becoming improved through social interactions
- Gaining an ability to follow through
- Feelings of adequacy and belonging
- Becoming further physically involved in an active recreation
Besides the data found in the study performed by the Journal of Leisurability, individual kayakers report greatly improved mental health and reduced symptoms of:
- Low self-esteem
When you kayak you are putting yourself closer to nature, which several kayakers find to be soothing and one of the main reasons they choose to kayak. Being in nature can be refreshing for your body, mind, and soul and the adventures and explorations found from kayaking can rejuvenate your mental state. In addition to feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after a kayaking excursion, you will feel more positive as you look forward to your next outing with your kayak.
Similar to feeling a sense of calm from being in nature, you will also feel a sense of wonder and excitement because more often than not, kayakers report spotting several species of wildlife while they are out. Of course, spotting wildlife will be determined on your location, how remote you are, and how well the eco-system is thriving. If you do become lucky enough to encounter nature at her best, it will prove to be an amazing and unforgettable experience.
It is no secret that those who experience nature and exercise regularly will lead healthier and happier lifestyles. When you can combine the two with a sport such as kayaking you will be bound to see the benefits quite quickly.
10. Low impact exercise
Kayaking can be done by anyone, of any age, and any body type. This is due to being a low-impact sport. A low-impact sport simply means that throughout practicing the sport, your joints and bones will not be impacted in a negative or stressful way. Kayaking provides individuals a gentle, yet vigorous form of exercise that can be done every single day without putting stress on the joints or muscle tissues.
As you kayak, you will begin to increase your joint flexibility as well. The kayaking technique follows a pattern of movements that will keep your joints fluid, as well as lubricated. The gentle and continuous movement kayaking provides is great for the overall (and long term) joint and muscle tissue health.
JOINTS THAT ARE GENTLY ENGAGED WHILE YOU KAYAK INCLUDE:
As long as you are following the proper paddling technique, you will be gently engaging your joints and surrounding muscle tissues no matter how quickly you end up paddling.
Overall, there are several different and unique physical and mental health benefits that kayaking can provide to an individual. Those who are kayaking enthusiasts all have their personal goals or reasons for starting to kayak in the first place, yet there are many common factors that keep kayakers involved and looking forward to the sport.
Kayakers looking to lose a few pounds or become more physically fit are able to use their kayaking skills to help them meet their goals. Kayakers looking to find their peace of mind or simply center themselves on calm and quiet water can find a secret kayaking spot to enjoy a silent moment.
No matter why you choose to begin this great outdoor sport, kayaking will prove over and over again that it is a great way to spend your time as well as improve your physical and mental states. In addition to improving your health and happiness, you will find that your social life will grow. Soon you will be kayaking with new friends and you will have the chance to discover new and exciting places as well as make long-lasting memories.
The benefits of kayaking prove to show health and happiness results, especially when there is an extended amount of time in which to measure against. Regardless of how, when, where, why, or who you kayak with, you will be sure to reap the many health benefits kayaking has to offer.