Paddling Canoes and Kayaks Is Great Exercise

Man kayaking on sunny ocean
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Among the many reasons people may choose to paddle canoes and kayaks is that they do so for exercise. Paddling is indeed great exercise, providing fantastic aerobic and cardiovascular effects as well as upper body strength. Both canoes and kayaks will offer you this benefit, regardless of the type of paddling you choose to do. They also provide these health effects whether they are sought or not.

A Side Benefit

Although some people do paddle purely for the exercise, more often than not this benefit proves to be a side effect of paddling for other purposes. Whether you are a whitewater kayaker braving a class iv river, a sea kayaker out in the open water, or a canoeist on a secluded lake, paddling will act as both an aerobic form of exercise as well as a great workout for your back, abs, and arms. Whereas these people were just doing what they loved most, they were actually reaping the rewards of a complete workout without sacrificing any time from being with loved ones or doing the things they enjoy most.

A Deliberate Endeavor

Still, there are those who do paddle purely for exercise and health reasons. For these individuals, the sky (or should we say the water) is the limit. You can go as fast, as far, and as long as you wish or your workout permits. There are kayaks, canoes, and paddles that are built purely for these purposes. Again, this type of workout can be attained in either a canoe or a kayak although the kayak seems to be the boat of choice among the average person looking for a good paddling workout.


Anyone who has paddled their own canoe or kayak even once knows about the amount of energy that is expended just getting ready to paddle or in putting away their gear. There’s lifting boats up, putting them down, tying them on the roofs of cars, removing them, carrying them to and from the water, helping your friends, and dealing with all the gear throughout the process. At first, this sounds like a hassle but what activity is there that doesn’t require preparation and clean up? The truth is this is not a bother at all since you are doing what you love and in the process, you’re getting a great workout.

Proper Technique

The most important consideration when paddling, especially for exercise, is to maintain proper technique and to stretch before and after paddling. The repetitive nature of the sport can adversely cause wear and tear on your joints when proper posture and paddling technique are not observed. Furthermore, more serious injuries like dislocating a shoulder are possible in whitewater paddling. Also, some of the more frequent paddling injuries occur while lifting and carrying canoes and kayaks to and from a paddling excursion. Learning and using proper lifting, posture, and paddling technique will reduce the occurrence of paddling related soreness and injury.

It’s Healthy and Fun!

As if we needed another reason to get out onto the water, the fact remains that whether you are looking for it or not, paddling canoes and kayaks provides a great form of exercise in a usually beautiful setting. There are few activities available to us that give such a balanced approach to our cardiovascular system and our whole body strength as paddling does. These health benefits are often a side effect of simply doing what you love most.

So get out there on the water and live a healthy life!