It may look like there’s not much to the sport of kayaking from afar, but there are some surprising benefits of kayaking that you might not be aware of if you have never given this active sport a try.
Some of us grew up on the water and things like kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding were a big part of our natural fitness routine. For others, kayaking can be a great way to get out of your comfort zone and experience something new.
There are so many benefits to our favorite sport, but today we are going to focus on 25 surprising benefits that will make you reconsider giving kayaking a try if you never have before. So let’s check out these perks!
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- Why We Love Kayaking
Surprising Benefits of Kayaking
- 1. Kayaking Can Help You Lose Weight
- 2. Kayaking Can Enhance Your Focus
- 3. Kayaking Can Help You Develop Toned Legs
- 4. Kayaking Activates Vitamin D in your Body
- 5. Kayaking Can Improve Your Memory
- 6. Kayaking Can Increase Your Core Strength
- 7. Kayaking Can Boost Your Mood
- 8. Kayaking Can Improve Your Heart Health
- 9. Kayaking Can Help You Get Better Sleep
- 10. Kayaking Can Increase Your Endurance
- 11. Kayaking Can Help You Get Bigger Arms
- 12. Kayaking Can Reduce Your Stress
- 13. Kayaking Can Make You Calmer
- 14. Kayaking Can Help You Bond with Your Family
- 15. Kayaking Can Help You Make New Friends
- 16. Kayaking Can Speed Up Recovery from Injuries
- 17. Kayaking Can Improve Your Self-Image
- 18. Kayaking Can Help You Learn
- 19. Kayaking Can Reduce Cognitive Decline
- 20. Kayaking Can Help You Explore Your Backyard
- 21. Kayaking Can Encourage You To Travel
- 22. Kayaking Can Help You Train and Exercise Your Dog
- 23. Kayaking Can Strengthen Your Lat Muscles
- 24. Kayaking Can Provide Unique Camping Experiences
- 25. Kayaking Can Improve Your Tan
- Final Thoughts
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We love kayaking for its pure simplicity and how easy it is for beginners to get started in this sport. It’s also super easy to get out on the water and there’s no pressure to go a long way once you’re out there…until you want to explore further.
Plus, it’s just nice to relax and detach from your daily routine every once in a while. While you’ll need to be prepared with the right kayak and gear like a life vest and kayak paddle, this is a really affordable sport to get into compared to many others.
While those are some of the obvious benefits of kayaking, let’s take a look at a few other benefits. Some might even surprise you!
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From the outside looking in, kayaking might not look like a high-intensity workout, but you’ll be burning calories from the moment you leave your car to take your kayak off your roof rack to the moment you’re loaded back up and ready to drive home.
In fact, studies have suggested that kayakers can burn up to 500 calories per hour when paddling at an average speed of five miles per hour. While that’s a little fast for a novice recreational kayaker, even paddling at two to three miles per hour can help you lose weight if you spend a full afternoon out on the water.
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Spending time in your kayak has been associated with the release of certain chemicals that are known to increase your attention span and improve your ability to focus. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are released in the brain while kayaking (and with other forms of exercise).
In many ways, the release of these chemicals may be responsible for your ability to notice things in your environment that you normally wouldn’t while kayaking. It can also help you focus on important tasks once you get home after your paddle trip.
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Most beginners think that kayaking uses only your arms and shoulders. Indeed, if you have the wrong paddling form, those muscles in your arms and shoulders will do the bulk of the work and they’ll wear out quickly.
Kayaking is actually a full-body workout and your legs are vital to keeping your kayak stable and engaging your core muscles while you’re paddling. If you spend several hours on the water, you might be surprised at how sore your legs feel when you wake up tomorrow.
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Vitamin D is a vital resource for your body’s natural immune system and the best way to receive vitamin D is by spending time out in the sun. Of course, there are supplements and specific diets that can help too, but nothing really substitutes for the real thing, if you can get it.
Vitamin D is essential for growing children and young adults and helps them develop strong bones and teeth. It also can help you lose weight and reduce the symptoms of seasonal or chronic depression and you may be surprised to learn that most people are lacking in this vital vitamin.
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While you might like to get outside and go kayaking for the physical benefits, studies have shown that kayaking may also help you remember where you went kayaking (and how you got there).
This form of exercise stimulates the hippocampus, which is partially responsible for verbal memory and learning. If you can get out to paddle several times a week, you will exercise your hippocampus each time and you will begin to notice an improved ability to remember even the smallest details of your otherwise busy life.
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So we made a brief mention of it above, but the best kayakers know how to engage their core muscles with each paddle stroke. Not only will this reduce fatigue in your arms and shoulders, but it will increase your core strength.
If you paddle enough, you’ll even be well on your way to those fit, toned abs you’ve always dreamed about. If you get into paddling one of the best whitewater kayaks too, your core will be working non-stop to keep you and your kayak upright.
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Many forms of outdoor exercise, including kayaking, lead your brain to release chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These are known as “feel good” chemicals and they will put you in a better mood.
So if you’ve been down or struggling with low energy levels, we get that kayaking might be the last thing you think of. Forcing yourself to do it, however, will leave you feeling happier and can actually make you more energized as well.
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While it’s not as intense as something like running, kayaking is classified as a form of cardiac exercise, which means it gets your blood pumping faster through your body than when you’re just at rest.
This kind of exercise strengthens your heart and improves its ability to pump blood through your extremities and regular circulation. A stronger heart also leads to increased red blood cell production, which can decrease fatigue and associated symptoms like headaches.
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Sleep issues are a chronic problem in the US and worldwide, but when we get more exercise throughout the day, we also tend to sleep better. Kayaking is a great way to increase your activity level so that you’re actually tired when your bedtime arrives.
It can also help you avoid waking up several times throughout the night and decrease tossing and turning. Studies have been slow to prove this, but it may actually improve your ability to enjoy interesting dreams by dropping more deeply into your REM sleep cycle each evening.
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For the same reasons that kayaking can increase your cardiac health, it can also improve your ability to exercise for longer periods of time. In other words, the more you kayak, the more you’ll be able to kayak!
The human body is amazing in that way. We can build a tolerance for many things and increase our ability to enjoy more and more of that thing and, in the case of kayaking, we think that’s a pretty good thing.
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As many trainers like to say, “biceps might be for show, but it’s the triceps that get the dough.” Fortunately, kayaking can help to tone both of the large muscles in your upper arms, as well as your forearms.
It will also improve your grip strength and increase muscle mass in your shoulders. So, you can see how kayaking is a great all-around workout for all the muscles in your arms, and even if you don’t use them for longer and longer kayaking trips, they’ll look good when you’re just hanging out at the beach.
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Our brains also release endorphins when we exercise and while those endorphins can improve our mood, they can also reduce our stress levels. It’s easier to leave your work or life issues behind while you’re floating on a calm lake or river in your kayak.
Vitamin D exposure and spending time in nature are also two factors that have been shown to reduce stress levels. Luckily, both of those things are in abundance for most recreational kayakers.
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When you’re floating gently around on your kayak on crystal clear water and soaking in the sun, it’s hard not to get lulled into a sense of calm. You’ll probably find yourself inhaling a deep breath and enjoying a long, relaxing exhale that could be way overdue.
When you’re kayaking alone, it can even be nice to get into a rhythm of deep breathing synced up to your paddle strokes. If you have trouble sitting still to meditate, kayaking can be a great way to enjoy the benefits of active meditation without forcing yourself to sit cross-legged in silence.
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Nowadays, the symptoms of technology overload can be witnessed within many family units. Fortunately, kayaking can come to the rescue by giving you an easy, relaxing activity that the whole family can enjoy together.
As an added bonus, it really helps to leave your phones and tablets behind while kayaking, unless you want them destroyed by water when you capsize. So you’ll be forced to unplug and spend quality time together, even if getting to your launch point requires some logistical teamwork.
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If you just moved to a new area, kayaking can be a great way to network and make new friends. In most areas where kayaking is popular, it’ll be hard to go for a paddle without running into other people.
Some places even have kayaking groups or classes coordinated through social media or local recreation agencies. These will give you a great excuse to meet people with similar interests and added motivation to put yourself out there when you’ve recently relocated.
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Muscle and bone atrophy can be a real issue when recovering from injuries that require long-term immobilization. While kayaking shouldn’t be the first thing you do when you can be mobile again, it can serve an important role in your recovery.
Many injuries require low-impact drills and activities to strengthen joints and tissue before it is safe to do high-impact workouts. Unless you unexpectedly run into a fellow paddler, kayaking is about as low-impact as it gets.
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As you start to see some of the other benefits we’ve mentioned associated with kayaking, you may also begin to feel more confident in yourself and your body’s capabilities. Stronger arms, improved core strength, and more toned legs are just a few things that can make you feel better about yourself.
Of course, the mental benefits can also lead to an overall improved perspective on who you are and what you have to offer. If you’re in a better mood and less stressed all the time, you’ll naturally be more attractive to others.
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The hippocampus stimulation we mentioned as helpful to improving your ability to remember old stuff can also improve your ability to learn new things. As outdoor exercises like kayaking stimulate that part of the brain, new and healthier brain cells are developed.
These new cells will improve your ability to retain new information as well as recall stuff you already know. So if you’re a student struggling to make the grade, getting out of the library and into a kayak for a couple of hours each week may be more helpful than you’d imagine.
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We’ve already discussed how kayaking can improve mental health, but it can also help to slow down some of the mental health issues that are often associated with aging.
Studies have shown that older adults that exercise at least three times a day are significantly less likely to develop degenerative cognitive diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s. So if you’re recently retired and looking for a new hobby, kayaking might just be the perfect solution.
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There might be a lake, river, or pond that you drive by every day that you don’t even realize is right in your backyard. When you get into kayaking, however, you look at both standing and running water differently.
Getting into kayaking can help you explore where you live differently and find new places to recreate. Ultimately, knowing every inch of your backyard will make you a better host when your family and friends come to visit!
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After a while, it’s natural to seek new and potential far-flung locations to test your kayaking skills. If you have one of the best inflatable kayaks or one of the best folding kayaks, you can take your vessel with you on a long road trip or even pack it underneath an airplane.
There are some world-renowned lakes and rivers that you probably gaze upon in envy on your social media feed daily. Your love for kayaking might just be the added motivation you need to plan your next adventure trip.
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Learning how to kayak with a dog is different than just learning how to kayak alone, but it can definitely be worth it. If you and your pup are having some difficulty with some commands like stay, sit, or even lie down, kayaking will give you lots of practice in all of those areas.
If your pup doesn’t like to swim, kayaking gives you an ally in teaching these commands, as long as you bring along treats in a waterproof bag. Even if your pup does like to swim, he or she can hop in the water and get some low-impact swimming exercise while you paddle alongside.
If you’re interested in kayaking with your pup, check out these additional resources:
- How To Modify a Kayak for a Dog
- The Best Dog Breeds for Kayaking
- The Best Sit On Top Kayaks For Dogs
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In line with our previous thoughts on kayaking being a full-body workout, it can also help you strengthen your latissimus muscles. These muscles help with scapular motion and can atrophy if you’ve recently suffered a shoulder or neck injury.
The pulling of the kayak paddle through the water is what helps to strengthen these muscles. If you’re paddling for several hours, you might repeat this motion a couple hundred times, which means your lats are activating and strengthening with you hardly even thinking about it.
Pro Tip: Focus on keeping your back straight and your scapula flat to your body to maximize the lat strengthening possibilities while kayaking.
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There are some campsites out there along rivers or on lake shorelines that are only accessible by boat. While you could get there using one of the most expensive pontoon boats, it will feel better if you earn your camping rewards by paddling your kayak there.
As camping becomes more and more popular, kayaking to a campsite gives you the chance to avoid the crowds and enjoy some true solitude in nature. Just make sure you know how to pack your kayak for a camping trip and reserve your campsite in advance so you know it’s waiting for you while you’re paddling.
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If you’ve always imagined having the golden skin that takes many of us a full summer to achieve, hop in your kayak and let it happen naturally. This way, you don’t have to lay in the sun baking for hours and you can get exercise while you’re at it.
If you have a sit-on-top kayak, you can even go for that elusive Z-shaped sandal tan that is usually reserved for kayak guides that wear their Chacos outside every day of the summer. Of course, there are other kayaking sandals that can give you a unique foot tan too.
Just make sure to avoid over-exposure to UV radiation while kayaking. There’s a balance here between getting your ideal tan and doing serious damage to your skin that can be prevented with things like sunscreen or a long-sleeved, breathable paddling shirt.
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Kayaking truly is an active sport that pretty much anyone can participate in. In our opinion, it is also one of the best ways to take a break from the day-to-day stressors of your life and spend some quality time in nature.
If you’ve never given kayaking a chance, we hope reading through these surprising benefits of kayaking altered your perspective and we look forward to seeing you on the water sometime real soon!