The Health Benefits of Kayaking

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Paddling a kayak is a great way to stay in shape and see your watery world. Not only does it give you physical benefits but it is also one of the best activities for mental health.

Think about it for a second. There is just something extremely calming about paddling a kayak in the middle of a lake or bay where your mind just gets to switch off and focus on the activity at hand. Sure there are lots of different things you can do to get your mind to take a break but few will be able to go to places that a simple kayak and a kayak paddle can take you.

Calories Burned Kayaking vs Other common activities 

below we have a table that shows you whereabouts kayaking sits in terms of calories burned per hour. Information from other activities in table provided by Pop Sugar. Fitness

Exercise Calories Burned (Per Hour )
Running at a (6.7 mph) 600
Cardio kickboxing class 597
Swimming 594
Cycling at 14- 16 mph 540
Running at 6 mph 540
Elliptical 435
Indoor Spin Class 413
Kayaking (4- 5 mph Pace) 400
Hiking 387
Soccer 378
Yoga Class 269
Walking 4mph 243
Raking Leaves 216
Piliates 140

as you can see Kayaking sits right in the middle of a range of common physical activities people partake in including those who do goat yoga! 

History of Kayaking

Kayaking was originally invented by the Inuit and Aleut peoples around the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea and North Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They were made of wood or whale bones that were covered with skins of seals. The craft is believed to be around 4,000 years old and were used for hunting purposes in coastal oceans, rivers and lakes.

We have put together lists and infographics to display the kinds of mental and physical benefits kayaking can do for you and your body.

Here are some of the Mental Benefits of Kayak Exercise

Mental Health Kayak Exercise

It Strengthens your Mental Health

Kayak exercise helps bring positivity and clarity to your mental health. For many people who suffer from depression they often underestimate their self worth so as a result it makes their thoughts spiral out of control.  Kayaking helps bring clarity to that feeling in the sense that you are using your whole body to propel you forward. That in turn releases endorphins in the brain from the physical activity. There is also a feeling of tranquility involved in being in the open water.

Brings Mental Calmness

Being out in the open water is very meditative and allows your brain to release those thousands of thoughts that are racing through your brain and instead enjoy the moment. In fact many people make it a routine to do some kayak exercise after work as it helps them de-stress and enjoy being in the moment.

Reduces Stress20 Health Benefits of kayak Exercise

It’s a long day at the office, you are thinking of all those emails you have to send and how the boss hates your guts. Well forget all of that stuff and jump into a kayak after a long day of work! A consistent amount of added stress can be dangerous to your long term health so why not take a breather?  Truth is there is lots of ways to destress including going to the gym , taking a walk, or using PEMF Therapy but none of them can be compared with the tranquility that the combination of floating on the calm water and being in the great outdoors can provide. When you add the physical activity of paddling it can greatly reduce stress loads allowing you to think clearer and giving you a better night’s sleep.

Increases your Social Circle

You may think it’s weird to put this in with health benefits but they actually go hand in hand! Humans have evolved over time to be social, they need to be with other human beings in order to achieve some level of happiness. If you don’t have a lot of friends or your job takes you away from being around different people meeting new friends while kayaking is a great way to go! You could even join a club or take lessons. Who knows you might even find that special someone you have been searching for! 😉

Helps Increase your Confidence

A lot of people can grow up with mental disorders or depression as they grow up which takes quite a toll on their confidence. However if you take up kayaking and meet people with similar interests as you all while being outside it kind of makes you forget about all of that stuff. I recently watched a video where these adolescents had depression but found a happy place competing in whitewater slalom kayaking courses! Once you start feeling good about yourself or what you are doing, it helps you in your quest for happiness.

Helps Increase Mental Focus

It has been proven time after time that doing some sort of physical activity then getting back to work helps you get through the day with more focus and determination. This is no different for kayaking! Perhaps introduce your boss to kayaking?

Gives you Emotional Benefits

The time spent in nature is probably one of the most surreal things you can experience!  If you are a couple kayaking with a favorite activity such as fishing or touring then it increases your positivity tenfold! It also has the opportunity to bring people closer together such as families, couples or friends!

Puts You in a Routine

If you enjoy kayaking you want to do it more right?  With all the benefits listed it would be a good idea to schedule it into some sort of routine where you designate certain days to go kayaking. Don’t have a roof rack or a truck? Get an inflatable kayak! There is really no excuse for you to get some physical exercise and enjoy the peaceful tranquility nature has to offer!

Makes You Happier20 health benefits of kayak exercise

The combination of any kind of physical exercise and spending time in the great outdoors has a proven effect that makes you happier. So if you like kayaking go out and explore what waterways are out there! Kayak exercise helps you maintain a more active, healthy and happier lifestyle all while exploring new areas!

Here are some of the Physical Benefits of Kayak Exercise

Physical Benefits Kayak Exercise

Muscle Groups Worked:



  • Lats
  • Rhomboids
  • Latissimus Dorisi


  • Abdomen
  • Obliques (Transverse, Internal absominal, External abdominal)
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lower Back)


  • Pectoral


  • Biceps
  • Brachialis
  • Triceps
  • Deltoid (rear, lateral, and anterior)
  • Trapezius
  • Forearms (Flexor Carpl radialis, Pronator teres, Palamaris Longis, Flexor Carpi ulnarls)

Leg and Hip Muscles:

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Gluteus Medius

Improves the Cardiovascular System20 health benefits of kayak exercise

Paddling a Kayak consistently helps your cardiovascular system which has great benefits for your heart and immune system. Doing any physical activity helps with this however kayaking is one that is actually distracting in a good sort of way. How many normal people do cardiovascular exercises is go for a run or on the treadmill but it can be quite boring. Kayaking allows you to be out in nature and explore your water ways. This really distracts you from feeling the burn a lot of the times.

Increased Muscle Strength in your back

Kayaking is like the equivalent of doing a single arm dumbbell or seated cable row in that every stroke you take works the lats. While one of the arms is rowing back the other is being stretched and then contracted. The difference is you are doing this exercise for a longer period of time.

Helps Increase Ab Definition

Not to many people think of this but your abs get worked quite a bit when kayaking! Your stomach is filled with “hard to get rid of” fats that take a lof ot effort to get rid of. Often times they demand a routine of core exercises done consistantly to chip away at the fat. When paddling with some vigour, kayaking can provide a good ab workout when done consistantly.  The rotational movements of moving the paddle back and forth for an extended period of time really work on your abdomen and obliques! This puts a huge load on your core as seen below!20 health benefits of kayak exercise

Increased Torso and Core Strength

These muscles are being exercised when you are steering and balancing the kayak with every stroke. The longer you go the more work is being done to them!

Increased Strength In Your Arms

During a kayaking session the two main bi- products of the work is the biceps and triceps. As one arm rows in the biceps are hit, the other arm is using a forward extension thus putting torque on the paddle which creates work for the triceps. A similar gym exercise that can be compared to this is very high rep pull ups. Your hands and forearms will be tired after a period of none stop paddling. If you even noticed olympian rowers and kayakers you will see that their arms are bulky. This is because this is one of the main areas they have to be strong in in order to compete so they focus a lot of time building up those muscles.

Increased Strength in Your Shoulders

Believe it or not shoulders are actually more involved in a kayak exercise than a typical back workout. The motion of the paddle coming up after each stroke and extending forward again really works the shoulders. The muscles being used in that motion are the large lateral muscle up to the shoulders as well as the rear, anterior and lateral deltoids. Your grip also has a part to play in what muscles are being used more just like in the gym.

Increased Strength in Your Chest

The movements involved can be compared to a single arm dumbbell bench press, but different in a way. Anytime you do a rowing motion of any particular kind the pectoral muscles flex to stabilise the shoulder and the arm as they pull in. While not as noticeable as doing a full on bench press over time  you will notice a subtle difference.

Helps Increase your Leg Strength

The Legs are an important part of balance within the kayak. As you learn a better paddling technique you learn to work the legs with the hips to help turn stabilize or brace the kayak. For better paddling technique it also helps to rotate your hips while you paddle to give you better rotation and strength per paddle. 

Helps with Weight Loss

Weight Loss is a common problem in today’s society. However with the combination of the above exercises being utilised kayaking actually does help you lose weight. However as with anything you have to be kayaking consistently to start seeing a difference. Paddling a kayak once will not make a difference in that regard. The more seat time you get in your kayak the more weight will shed off! Consistantly going 4-5 mph in a kayak for an hour can burn 400 calories and up depending on the person.  

Helps Bring Vitamin D into your body20 health benefits of kayak exercise

Vitamin D is something that our bodies need to properly function. Unfortunately a lot of us don’t get enough of it. It is hard to get Vitamin D in foods so what is the alternative? Go out and get some sun! Being Outside in the sun helps your body get that special vitamin it needs to properly function. Just remember to bring sun screen!

Increases Your Stamina

Similar to any physical activity the more you do it the better you get at it! Kayaking is no different. As you kayak more you will be more in tune with how the boat boat behaves and how much longer you can paddle without getting tired! It is definitely one of the more enjoyable ways to increase your stamina.

These are the main Mental and Physical Benefits to Kayak exercise that I could find but the truth is there are probably thousands out there! Kayaking is a great hobby or sport to get into that involves people from all ages and backgrounds. Even if you do not have a kayak you can still head out to your local rental store where you can test them out and make an informed decision for yourself. Please do remember to bring a Life Jacket with you at all times, better safe than sorry right?

If you are thinking of experiencing kayaking in different places in the world Check this article out.

Getting Started

before getting serious about kayaking there are a few things you should consider and review. If you want to start getting more fit to do these exercises I recently wrote a blog post for Sworkit that entails at-home workouts to prepare you for kayaking

best fishing kayak, 20 health benefits of kayak exercise

How to Get Started Kayaking

If you take a look at any retailer and see hundreds of kayak on display it can be a bit confusing. How can one kayak be $400 and the other one be $2000? There so many that look so similar how do I even choose? Luckily if you are in the “What should I buy? “ stage we have written detailed kayak buying guide just for these questions. So grab your roof rack or kayak trailer and lets get paddling!

Try it before you buy it.

Before you jump into a kayak and majestically paddle off into the sunset you should first try kayaking. If you want to try a stable kayak in calm waters head to your local lake and rent a kayak from a rental location. If you live near a ocean or want to paddle longer distances a sea kayak would be more preferred. In that case find a knowledgeable tour guide and go on a guided sea kayaking tour! To get a better idea of what you may be looking for take a look at the most popular types of kayaks below

Types of Kayaks

Kayaks come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and purposes. Before you decide to dive right in let’s go through some of them to give you the best idea of what will fit your lifestyle. Many of these categories tend to overlap.

Recreational Kayaks

These are usually the starting point for many kayakers looking to get into the sport. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and purposes. The most common characteristic of these kayaks is that that they are stable. 

Inflatable Kayaks

These are some of the best selling kayaks nowadays because of their portability. The most common buyers of these kayaks are beginners or people who are downsizing and don’t have the room for a hard shelled kayak anymore. Read more about inflatable kayaks.

Touring and Sea Kayaks

These Kayaks are usually geared towards intermediate paddlers who want to travel longer distances. Some common characteristics of these boats is that they have a longer length and have a thinner cockpit. These features allow touring kayaks to have better tracking ability and paddle along at a greater speed. 

Fishing Kayaks

When many people think of fishing on the water they think of a father son in a canoe fishing but kayak fishing is long on its way to surpassing it. Fishing Kayaks are usually made to be stable to allow the angler to stand and cast. Many fishing kayaks also feature places to mount fish finders as well as hatches and places to store your fishing gear such as coolers.

Sit On Top Kayaks

These kayaks are not covered but can be used for a wide variety of reasons. Many people choose sit on top kayaks because there is more room to store belonging that you want to bring with you such as back, packs coolers, snacks or even your child or dog for fun paddling! 

Tandem Kayaks

These kayaks are meant for two or more people. They can be found in all of the above categories. These kayaks are preferred by people who may be on a budget that don’t want two separate kayaks or family members. To use these boats you oftentimes have to paddle in unison which can take some getting used to. 

Folding Kayaks

Similar to inflatable kayaks, except these kayaks are hardshell kayaks that fold out similar to how a tent would. These kayaks were made famous by a Dragons Den appearance from Oru Kayaks

White Water Kayaks

These are for the adrenaline junkies as they are usually found in fast moving waters. They are very short and feature narrow hulls. They also require a tremendous amount of skill to manoeuvre.  


Well now that I have laid everything out for you it’s time to take action! Feel free to comment or post on our Facebook Page detailing about your latest paddling journey and how it helped relax you

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8 thoughts on “The Health Benefits of Kayaking”

  1. I’ve been thinking about getting into kayaking, as I heard it was a great workout to do. You wrote in the article that kayaking was created by the Inuit and Aleut people around the arctic ocean. I had no idea kayaking had this much history, I’ll have to find a service that could help me keep the kayaks in great condition and appreciate them for all the history they have.

  2. Kayaking has so many physical and emotional benefits that this article only covers the tip of it! Floating on the Water is extremely meditative!
    If you think about it rocking on the water is like the adult equivalent of a toddler rocking in crib or rocking chair!

  3. Haha , at least someone thought about this matter and took it deep to know what can be done and how it is going to affect our health. Even during fun we should check and analyze that the activity I am doing is worthy of it? Is it going to be healthy and helpful for my body?

  4. Pingback: How an Inflatable Kayak Can be Your Best Friend in Emergencies | prepping information

  5. Pingback: The 8 Best Kayaking Destinations in China – Demo

  6. It is good to know that kayaking brings the benefit of mental calmness, as being in the water allows the brain to get rid of other thoughts and just enjoy the moment. My family wants to go kayaking for summer. Since this activity has benefits other than physical exercise, I’ll get in touch with a kayak rental company right away to get our equipment ready.

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