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10 Benefits of a Kayak Workout – Paddle for Exercise

Kayaking is a popular outdoor activity with a lot of physical and mental benefits. If you are looking for a fun way to get outdoors and exercise, you are in luck.  In this article, we focus on how you can benefit from a kayak workout. 

A kayak workout is excellent because a lot of people can do it. You don’t need a gym membership, and it’s not intimidating.  There are many benefits from paddling, and we are not just talking about the physical aspect. Let’s get into how you can benefit from a kayak workout.

Benefits of a kayak workout

Working out on the water is no joke. Water-resistance is an excellent way to improve endurance and your overall physical health. The harder you paddle, the more intense the workout.

Let’s get right to it!

Go at your own pace

With a kayak workout, you can go as fast or slow as you want. If you are just getting started, you can go slow and work your way into better shape.  You are not competing against a bunch of other people, like when you take a class at a gym.

You can start out paddling slow and work on your endurance.  The water is your resistance. The slower you paddle, the easier it is.  If you are in good shape, you can paddle faster and harder for a more intense workout.

That’s the great thing about a kayak workout; you can increase or decrease the resistance whenever you want to.

Fully body workout

Many people think paddling is all about your arms, but you need to have a strong midsection as well.  Core strength will help you rotate your torso, which helps you paddle more efficiently. Paddling targets core muscles you might not hit during a regular workout routine.

With proper technique, you will use your shoulders, lats, lower back, core muscles, and legs. Legs are integral in guiding and steering your kayak. The faster you paddle, you can build up endurance and get a good cardio workout.  Water-resistance is no joke.

Spending a day on the water can be quite a workout if you want one.  Here’s a tip, for more of a leg workout, you might try a pedal drive kayak.

Low impact

Paddling is a great low-impact workout. Because you are sitting, kayaking is a lot less demanding on your knees, ankles, and other joints, unlike running or using a treadmill.  You can exert more or less effort to change the intensity of your kayak workout.

Paddling faster will increase your heart rate, and if you need a break, you can slow down.  You can also mix it up and combine smooth paddling with short bursts of intense paddling. If you work out regularly, kayaking is a great way to add balance and focus on your upper body.

Plus, if you want to, conditions permitting, you can dive in and go for a swim.

Not just good for your body

A day on the water is a great way to leave your worries behind and relax. After a long day (or week) of work, escaping to the outdoors is an excellent way to recharge your batteries.

When you go to the gym, you have to deal with big screen TV’s, blaring music, people, dudes grunting, and tossing weights around.  Kayaking gives you a tranquil, enjoyable experience that is very soothing.

Take an afternoon, or a day, to experience fresh air, exercise and you can really let your body decompress. Kayaking is great for your mind and your body.

Every fitness level

Young or old, paddling is an activity that can accommodate everyone.  If you are a senior looking for a low-impact workout, kayaking is an excellent option. You can design the kayak workout around your fitness level and goals.


We have already established that kayaking is an excellent way to get some physical exercise.  It doesn’t matter if you are on a calm lake, slow-moving river, or a larger body of water.  It’s also a great way to clear your head.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and lift your mood.  Plus, being on the water adds an element of peacefulness. You don’t really have to focus your mind on anything; just enjoy floating across the water.

A kayak workout is a fantastic way to improve your physical and mental health.

Improve your balance

As you step onto or into a kayak for the first time, it may seem a little squirrely (off-balance).  If you don’t want to go overboard, you will quickly learn how to find the center of gravity and keep your balance.

Maintaining your balance requires different muscles to work together, so kayaking gives you an off-balance workout opportunity.

Enjoy the outdoors

We touched on this a bit already, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s fun and relaxing to get outdoors and enjoy nature. For some of us, it’s even better in a kayak.

With a kayak, you can explore waterways and other areas that you may not be able to access on foot or with a larger boat. When you go kayaking, you can explore nature and enjoy the great outdoors.  This can give you a sense of calm that is good for the soul.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, and one of the best ways to get it is from the sun.  Spending time on the water is a great way to soak up some rays. 

Spending time on the water in the sun is a great way to get some much-needed sunshine. Make sure you don’t soak up too much sun, or you could end up burnt. 

Build community

If you are interested in joining other folks who are interested in kayaking, ask around. There might be a paddling or fitness club where you can join similar minded people for a workout on the water. 

Paddling with others is a great way to building community and get to know other people with similar interests. You can even meet up on a weekly or every other week basis.

Before you head out

Before you hit the water for your workout, you need to have the right gear.  If you don’t own a kayak already, you can rent one from a local shop. There are often rentals available on lakes or in your local community.

If you want to take the plunge and purchase your own kayak, you can read this post for information on different types of kayaks.  Here is another resource if you want more information on a kayak for beginners.

Pick the right gear

You are going to need a few things to get started with your kayak workout. 

For starters, you will need:

Other items you might consider are:

Watch the weather

In certain places, the weather can change quickly, so it’s important to know what to expect. Be sure you check the weather before you head to the water. 

It’s no fun and can be dangerous, to be stuck on the water when the weather is horrible. Be smart and be safe. Check the weather before you hit the water.


Kayak Workout - Blue kayak on a lake Pin

A kayak workout can be great for your mind and body. You might even work some muscles that have been neglected for a while.  Paddling is a versatile workout that you can make hard or easy, depending on your fitness level.  

If you are up for a different kind of workout, try paddling. You might find that it’s just what you have been looking for.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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About the author
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.