Health Benefits of Kayaking

Health Benefits of Kayaking

Kayaking is the ultimate way to experience the water.  You’ll get your heart pumping, strengthen muscles throughout your entire body, and soak up vitamin D in the sunshine, all while cruising alongside beautiful scenery and wildlife.  Not only is kayaking good exercise for those looking for a moderate to vigorous workout, but it is a fun way to relax and connect with nature and explore hidden coves and places that you can’t get to by car.

Here is a list of all the health benefits you’ll get every time you set out on your next kayaking adventure.

Improves Strength

Kayaking is a sport that anyone can do.  It’s non-impact, so even if you have issues with your hips, knees, or ankles, it’s still suitable for you.  However, just because it’s accessible, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’ll get your heart rate up and give you a great strength workout at the same time.  You’ll need to recruit muscles from every major area of your body to power through each paddle stroke, and one of the health benefits of kayaking is that you’ll see improved strength overall.  Here are the areas you’ll be working.


Your biceps and triceps are major movers every time you pull your paddle through the water.  They’ll work in cooperation with your upper back to work against the resistance of the water to propel you forward.

Every time you extend one arm forward to dip your paddle in the water, the triceps on that arm will activate to steady your extension.  Once your paddle is in the water and you initiate the pulling motion to row yourself forward, your bicep and upper back will start doing work.  You’ll essentially have the muscles in your arms always working in cooperation when you’re rowing.


Your grip, meaning the muscles in your forearms and hands, will also be getting a constant workout.  To hold on to your paddle, you’ll need to apply constant tension to your fingers and hands, which will tax your forearms over time.

While rowing isn’t necessarily as challenging of a strength movement as something like a pull-up, the muscles you engage in your grip are similar, and you can expect to feel sore there the next day.


Every aspect of your shoulders is worked as you power through your stroke.  At the end of each pull, you’ll need to bring your paddle up, around, and then back in front to dip it in the water, which will require your rear, lateral, and anterior deltoids (the muscles that make up your shoulder girdle) to fire.


The muscles in your abdomen, lower back, and oblique’s will play a huge role in the strength of each stroke.  You’ll need to contract your abs with each forward reach, use your lower back with every pull, and isolate your obliques with each twisting motion.

Lower Body

Kayaking may not seem like a lower body workout, but you will be recruiting the muscles in your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes to keep you stable while you’re on the water.  Depending on your kayak design, you may also need to actively push through your legs to achieve a complete stroke and get the most bang for your buck on the water.

Increases Stamina

Stamina and endurance are two terms that are used interchangeably in the fitness world.  Stamina is defined as the ability to sustain a prolonged period of effort without fatigue.  Improving endurance isn’t just great for kayaking, but it means you’ll have more energy and the ability to do more in your everyday life as well.

Rowing on the water in a kayak has many physiological benefits, including improved endurance.      Because kayaking involves a constant push and pull effort, you’ll get a great workout on the water, and over time you’ll get stronger, faster, and be able to go for longer without having to work any harder.

Weight Loss

Adding exercise to your weekly routine is a key factor in successful weight loss.  According to the CDC, adults need to accumulate two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week for optimal health, and kayaking is a great way to do it.

Weight loss is all about calories in versus calories out, so it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and to burn more calories than you consume daily.  If you want to calculate your calories burned kayaking, you can use this simple formula from health and fitness experts, ACE.

Leisure kayaking burns .04 calories per minute per kilogram of body weight.  To determine your personal energy expenditure, multiply your weight in kilograms by .04, and then multiply that number by the total number of minutes you spent kayaking.  Remember, one kilogram is equal to 2.2 pounds.

Here’s an example:

160-pound female kayaking for 1 hour:

160 / 2.2 = 72.72 kg

72.72 x .04 x 60 minutes = 174.5 calories per hour

If you step up your paddling from a leisurely effort to a more moderate pace, you could burn closer to 0.12 calories per minute.  More energy expended equals more calories burned. Check out the complete chart from ACE here.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Kayaking even at a leisurely pace will raise your heart rate, which will produce several cardiovascular health benefits over time.  If you use kayak exercise at a more intense level, not only will you burn more calories, but you’ll see even more benefits.

Exercising your heart means you’ll improve your blood pressure, see bad cholesterol numbers go down, good cholesterol numbers go up, and you’ll be less likely to develop severe medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes.

A healthy heart is better able to pump blood to all areas of your body, and it also decreases your risk of stroke, clotting, and even common medical conditions like headaches and migraines.

Mental Health benefits

Regular physical activity has been proven to combat the symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety and depression.   Getting moving can increase blood flow to your brain, and stimulate the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that will lift your spirits.

Kayaking can also be a social sport, and getting on the water with other like-minded people can foster friendships that will improve your mood and social skills.

Spending time in a beautiful location, like on the water in a kayak, can also have a positive impact on mental health.  Giving yourself an hour or two to escape from life and reconnect with yourself can give you a huge boost.  For an added benefit, practice a few minutes of deep breathing and meditation while you’re paddling.

Great Source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that adults and children need to make sure they’re getting in their lifestyle.  If you’re deficient in Vitamin D, you might experience weak or brittle bones that misshape or break easily.

While it is possible to supplement with Vitamin D, your body is also able to naturally produce it when you’re exposed to the sun.  Although you should wear sunscreen anytime you’re outdoors, kayaking gives you a unique opportunity to soak up the sun’s rays, and all the Vitamin D you can handle.

You won’t need to leave your skin unprotected for long.  Depending on where you live and the strength of the sun, as little as 15 minutes outdoors can trigger Vitamin D production.  It’s not hard to spend that much time paddling when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, and you’re getting in a great workout.

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Peter Salisbury

Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.