If you’ve ever watched a kayaker, paddler or canoer come in from the water, you might have noticed they look pretty relaxed and happy. This is because paddling provides a unique and powerful combination of two psychological benefits: physical activity, and exposure to nature. Let’s explore these benefits and find out how you too can enjoy all the health benefits of paddling.
Physical Benefits of paddling:
Paddling improves strength and balance
The physical fitness required for kayaking can vary depending on the type and intensity, but will always require a certain level of physical strength, stamina, and balance. Strong core muscles help with maintaining balance and stability in the kayak, while upper-body strength is necessary for paddling effectively. Stand up paddling or paddle boarding is also great for core strength, and works every part of the body down to the soles of the feet! While you’re still finding your balance, consider renting or buying a very stable (beginner) kayak or paddle board, and wear a paddling life jacket or kayaking PFD that is designed especially to help with these paddle ports.
Paddling improves cardiovascular fitness
Cardiovascular endurance plays a role in sustaining energy and stamina during longer kayaking trips. People might be confused when wondering if paddling a kayak is good exercise, because there are two answers! Paddling against current or over waves will take a lot of physical effort and fitness, while gently ambling downstream will be easier, and considered lower intensity exercise. New to paddling? Always tell someone when you’re heading out for a paddle, and plan some easier shorter sessions to increase your fitness level before undertaking an endurance paddle or whitewater. Downwind paddling is an excellent way to increase fitness, but has safety implications, so make sure you have a reliable calf leash system and a good paddling life jacket.
Need some inspiration for paddling athletes with exceptional watersport fitness? Check out Vaikobi’s team of athletes.
Mental health benefits of paddling:
Time in nature improves mental health
You might have noticed kayakers or paddlers smiling as they pack away their kayaks, rinse off and chat to their peers. This is largely due to the health phenomenon of spending time in nature. Being on and in the water is soothing and relaxing, and looking around at trees or rocks has also been shown to have mental health benefits. Who knew we were meant to be out paddling instead of on our computers? The more time we can spend in nature the better, but consider that spending more time outdoors will increase your UV exposure, so always wear sun protective paddling clothing.
Paddling brings people together
All over the world, paddlers can join social paddling groups or competitive events that bring people together as a community doing what they are passionate about. The social aspect of participating in watersports with others can lead to a sense of community and belonging, which has been shown to have positive outcomes for mental health. If you have been paddling alone and enjoy the sport, consider multiplying these health benefits by joining a recreational group, invite a friend out paddling or sign up for an event. To stay informed about paddling events, follow the Vaikobi paddling gear brand on Instagram.
In summary, participating in watersports like kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddling has multiple health benefits, including improved balance, strength and fitness, reduced anxiety and depression, and of course that sense of achievement and confidence as you get better at it and spend more time in nature.