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The Health Benefits of Kayaking

health benefits of kayaking

Any kind of physical activity is going to have its health benefits. And it’s a really important part of the experience – knowing that by having fun, you are actually doing a good thing for your body.

What about kayaking? What are the health benefits of kayaking?

Let’s find out below!


The health benefits of kayaking


Weight loss

First and foremost, weight loss, the dream and task of many people around the world. This perhaps is the most desirable of the health benefits of kayaking as well.

Well, if you are an avid kayaker or want to become one, here is some good news – kayaking burns calories rather well!

According to the Harvard Medical School’s handy chart, half an hour of kayaking burns 150, 186, and 222 calories in 125-, 155-, and 185-pound individuals. One takeaway from this info is that the heavier you are, the more calories you burn, which is logical – you have to put more effort into propelling the increased total weight of your kayak.

Are these numbers good compared to other types of physical activity? Judge yourself.

Running – which is a common tool in the arsenal of those wishing to lose weight – at 5 miles per hour burns 240, 298, and 355 calories per half an hour for the same individual weights noted above.

Bicycling at 14-15.9 miles per hour burns 300, 372, and 444 calories. The same numbers are for breaststroke swimming, running at 6 miles per hour, and a few other activities.

For some additional perspective, among the low-demand activities are billiards (75, 93, and 111 calories) and general weight lifting (90, 112, and 133 calories), while the most demanding is running at 10 miles per hour (495, 614, and 733 calories).

Kayaking is closer to low-intensity activities like low-impact aerobics, walking at 4 miles per hour, skateboarding, etc.

Now, kayaking burns a very decent number of calories, but it isn’t as effective at weight loss as running or swimming. Well, that’s expectable – in either activity, the entire body and especially the legs are used actively, whereas kayaking doesn’t put as much of a strain on your body.

Improved muscle strength

Up second on our list of the health benefits of kayaking is improved muscle strength.

This one is a no-brainer – you certainly are going to be stronger if you kayak regularly. Paired with the weight loss benefit of kayaking and the right diet, this could mean quite a nice physique!

Of course, the strength gains aren’t going to be as high as from lifting weights at the gym. However, given that kayaking puts much less strain on the muscles than strength training, it may be much better of an activity for you.

Improved health

Any kind of physical activity is going to improve health, and kayaking is no exception.

Physical inactivity significantly increases the risk of death – being fit or active is associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes.

Energy expenditure of 1,000 calories from exercise is associated with an around 20% mortality benefit. Not only that, but an energy expenditure of about 1,600 calories in patients with coronary artery disease was able to halt the progression of the medical condition, while burning 2,200 calories has been shown to be accompanied with plague reduction in patients.

The referenced study also claims a 6% decrease in incidence of type 2 diabetes. Also, diet and exercise with modest weight loss have reduced the incidence of the disease by 40-60% among high-risk individuals over 3-4 years!

The risk of cancer is also reduced in physically active men – a 30-40% reduction of the risk of colon cancer was observed in men and women and a 20-30% reduction of the risk of breast cancer in women.

Now, even the slightest increase in physical activity is going to have a significant benefit for one’s health. However, some works consider that 1,000 calories per week are the minimum where health benefits are noticeable, while others put it as high as 2,000 calories.

These numbers are fairly easily achievable though with regular kayaking. But no matter how much you kayak per week, you will definitely be improving your overall health condition.

Reduced risk of joint wear and tear

This is a health benefit of kayaking compared to some other physical activities like running or lifting weights.

Kayaking is a low-impact activity, and the strain placed on the joints while paddling is very small compared to running or heavy squats or deadlifts. This may imply better joint longevity – though high-impact activities are safe if done carefully – as well as means that people of all ages could engage in kayaking pretty safely.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is synthesized by the human body when the UV rays from sunlight strike the skin. UV rays are sure harmful, but they do indeed trigger vitamin D synthesis.

However, some foods are sources of vitamin D, and it’s generally advised to intake vitamin D from food rather than from sun exposure due to UV’s carcinogenic effects.

Nonetheless, sun exposure is important in vitamin D production, especially if your diet isn’t too rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D has its role in bone and general health, and a deficiency can be extremely dangerous for your health.

And while not the main benefit of kayaking, synthesis of vitamin D due to sun exposure is important enough to be noted.

Improved cognitive ability

Finally, exercise in general improves memory and cognitive ability, as claimed by the Harvard Medical School.

The cognitive benefits come from the release of the so-called growth factors, chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the health of existing and new brain cells.

Exercise also reduces inflammation, as well as improves mood and sleep. And you probably know from your own experience that stress and poor rest can significantly impair thinking and memory.


Is kayaking the best way to stay fit?


Given the health benefits of kayaking listed above, is kayaking the best physical activity you could engage in?

This is a really specific question that only you can answer. Here are three factors that you may want to consider:

All kinds of physical activity are good if used at a proper time. Weightlifting is great if you are concerned with muscle mass and strength growth, while running is excellent if you want to quickly lose weight and improve your aerobic capability.

And this means that it’s up to you to decide whether kayaking is the best kind of exercise for your needs.

If you do determine that kayaking is for you, then our roundup of the best kayaks for the money may help you get started. And while you are at it, also check out our review of the best cheap kayak paddles.

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