How Kayaking Can Help Boost Your Fitness

Beautiful young couple kayaking on lake together and smiling

4 minReading time

Bored of the same old gym routine? Fancy getting some fresh air while you exercise? Look no further than kayaking!

Kayaking isn’t just a great way to enjoy the outdoors and have fun on the water. It comes with a ton of health benefits.

It might look easy, but don’t brush this fantastic activity off as a leisurely pastime! It can do wonders for your overall fitness, and with thousands of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and oceans to choose from across the globe, you’ll always have a new and exciting experience.

So, if you’re getting bored of repetitive gym routines, why not try kayaking – it can be so much fun!

How Kayaking Builds Fitness

Woman exploring calm tropical bay with limestone mountains by kayak. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Core Strength

A strong core should be the foundation of your overall health and fitness. Far more than just abs, it is used for just about any movement your body makes. It includes your abdominal muscles, lower back, obliques, glutes, and pelvis.

The benefits of having a strong core are endless. A strong core will support your lower back and minimize the risk of injury, it will improve your flexibility and balance, and it will improve your performance across a number of other sports, going a long way in helping you get that highly sought after flat stomach!

Kayaking, just like stand up paddle boarding, is fantastic for core conditioning. The balance required to just sit in a kayak on moving water continuously works your core, while the rotating movement required for paddling against the water builds strength. So the entire time you’re out on the water, you’ll be giving your core a good ole’ workout and be getting stronger by the minute.


Cardio doesn’t have to mean hours on the treadmill or hundreds of laps in a swimming pool. The constant movement required for paddling in a kayak will raise your heart rate, get the blood flowing and burn some serious calories!

Paddling is a great cardio workout, but as it’s low impact, it’s also very useful for anyone recovering from an injury who still wants to get the blood pumping. The average person will burn around 300 calories per hour while kayaking which is great for weight loss too.

Upper Body Workout

The paddling motion works your core muscles as well as the rest of your upper body. The resistance from the water allows you to tone your arm muscles with every stroke. Lifting weights is great, but it’s nice to mix it up a little, so why not carve out some lovely muscles while exploring your local river or beach in a kayak?

Leg Toning

Many people don’t realize that kayaking also tones your legs. Though you might not be using them to paddle, you are using them to apply pressure to turn and balance the kayak. So, while the arms and core are doing the heavy lifting, your legs are quietly getting toned too!

Any Other Health Benefits?

Portrait of a girl canoeist

Mental Health

Depending on the kind of water you choose to kayak in, the experience can be relaxing and meditative or exhilarating and action-packed. Either way, it is great for your mental health! Getting a dose of fresh air in the great outdoors is a great mood-lifter in itself, but combine that with the endorphin rush you get from exercising and you’ve got a recipe for pure joy.

Living in urban environments, with the artificial lighting, pollution and all the stresses of daily life can cause what researchers call cognitive fatigue. Being out in nature, even if only for a short amount of time, gives your brain a break and leaves you feeling rested.

Stress Relief

Regular kayakers across the world swear that kayaking is fantastic for reducing stress. If you’re having a tough week, heading out into nature will help you relax and forget your troubles. Researchers say that being on or near water is great for stress relief. It can increase the release of dopamine which is a brain chemical associated with that feel-good feeling.

Vitamin D

One of the hardest vitamins to get from food, Vitamin D is most commonly associated with sunshine. Spending just 15 minutes out in natural sunlight will give you enough Vitamin D to actively reduce depression and anxiety. And if that isn’t enough, it will also improve your sleep.

So what are you waiting for?

Young man pushes a canoe in the water while a woman sitting on the canoe. Couple going for kayaking in lake on a summer day

Give your gym the swerve and head out to enjoy nature in your kayak. You’ll see countless physical benefits in the form of toning, strengthening and potential weight loss while also reaping the psychological and mental health benefits. It’s a win-win!

About the writer: Helping beginners to understand the basics of kayaking, Mark from also assists amateur paddlers to up their game and fitness levels. Kayak Guru also writes about fishing, camping and stand up paddleboarding.

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  1. By Mads on Fri Jan 12 2018

    i kayak competitively, and most of it’s true- except the cardio part. I’m rubbish at that 🙂

    • By Jhady Arana on Fri Nov 09 2018

      cardio can be hard for some people, keep practising!