Are you searching for a sport that will enable you to get out of your house more and improve both your physical and mental health? Kayaking can offer you all those, along with tons of enjoyment. You don’t only get to exercise your body, heart, and brain but you also get to explore the beauty of nature and discover new places that you never knew existed. Kayaking offers a lot of benefits that are more than enough to encourage you to go on your first kayaking experience.
What is Kayaking?
Kayaking is a water sport that involves using a double-bladed oar to paddle a small boat called a kayak. There are many different kayaks – sit-on-top kayaks, recreational kayaks, inflatable kayaks, fishing kayaks, whitewater kayaks, tandem kayaks, and touring kayaks, among others – each one designed for the kind of kayaking activity you’d like to do. Most kayaks can only accommodate one person, but some designs (i.e. tandem kayaks) can hold two or three people and even pets.
You may go kayaking in any body of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. However, make sure that you do not overestimate your capabilities.
If you are still a beginner, it would be best to start with flat-water kayaking. This means you should have your first session on a body of water that is sheltered from the wind and does not have large waves. Otherwise, you will have some difficulty maneuvering through the waters and may end up getting into an accident.
Before getting started, it’s also wise to do some reading on how to get in a kayak and how to properly kayak in the first place. While it may seem simple, having foundational understanding of proper form and techniques could be a life-saver.
Once you’ve become an expert kayaker, you can then move on to more complicated kayaking, such as taking part in races or braving the white waters. Remember to always consider your safety above anything else before deciding to kayak in dangerous conditions.
For those who are new to this sport, here is a checklist of the equipment and items you need to bring with you on your first outing:
- Two paddles, one being a spare
- Floatation device
- Bilge pump
- Waterproof bag
- Headlamp, together with spare batteries
For longer and challenging kayaking trips, you may also bring extra gear such as:
- Paddle float
- Paddling knife
- GPS or Maps
- Float bags
- Two-way radios
Benefits of Kayaking
Aside from being an enjoyable and fun activity, kayaking offers many benefits for your physical health and mental health.
Physical Health Benefits of Kayaking
1. Achieve your ideal body weight
Kayaking is one of the many forms of exercise that can help you to shed some weight. The calories burned in kayaking will reach almost 500 every hour if you paddle at an average of 5 mph. Although it seems as though it is less than what you can burn through other exercises, such as running, you don’t spend only 30 minutes or an hour kayaking and it’s a whole lot more fun than being on a treadmill.
Most people that do kayaking exercises do so for more than an hour, maybe even for the entire afternoon. That means you can burn almost 1,600 calories per kayaking session. If weight loss is one of your goals, you can allocate some of your afternoons per week for the activity and consistently kayak until you achieve your ideal weight.
2. Increase upper body muscle strength
Since you are mainly using your arms throughout the kayak exercise, these body parts become more toned. The exertion while kayaking extends to most of your upper body muscles such as those on your back, shoulders, and chest. Paddling for hours help exercise these muscles.
To travel a mile on your kayak, you’d need to do around 500 strokes, depending on several factors. If you go for even just two miles, you would have done 1,000 repetitions. This amount of work improves your upper body strength.
3. Develop toned legs
Although the benefits of kayaking are more evident on your arms, shoulders, and upper back, it also has significant effects on your and legs. Leg muscles are still used while you are kayaking. In fact, the movements involved with kayaking are just as impactful on the lower limbs as it is on the upper ones.
While you kayak, your legs apply the needed pressure to keep you balanced on the kayak. Also, when you are trying to turn or maneuver, you would unknowingly tighten and loosen the muscles in your legs alternatively countless of times.
4. Strengthen your core muscles
Your abdomen, obliques, and lower back are also engaged during this workout. In every stroke, as you reach forward, you will be contracting your abs, while as you pull, you contract your muscles on the lower back. When you make any twisting motion, you then engage your obliques. Also, the most effective way of keeping a kayak balanced while sitting on or in it is to sit upright. This keeps your core muscles slightly engaged throughout the activity.
5. Increase your endurance
Because kayaking is done for hours, it allows you to improve your stamina, which means you can withstand extended periods of effort without getting easily fatigued. Performing moderately intense exercises, such as kayaking, at least three times a week can increase your energy levels by 20%. Not only does this kayaking benefit enable you to do the activity longer, but it also increases the energy you can spend on your daily activities.
6. Improve heart health
Kayaking is an aerobic sport, which is also known as a cardiac exercise. This type of workout strengthens your heart muscle and improves its efficiency to pump blood. It also improves circulation efficiency and increases the total amount of red blood cells in the body. Kayaking achieves this by increasing your heart rate to a healthy level. If you perform the activity consistently, you will also be exercising your heart regularly, making it more robust and stronger.
7. Activate Vitamin D in your body
There are some types of food where you can get vitamin D, including but not limited to fatty fish, beef liver, and cheese. We even have the inactive form of the vitamin in our system. However, for it to exhibit its effect in our body, we need to expose ourselves to sunlight.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, helps boost the immune system, aids in brain development, supports muscle function, and keeps the heart healthy. Luckily, this sport enables you to bask in the sun, allowing your body to produce vitamin D.
Mental Health Benefits of Kayaking
8. Reduce stress
Spending time outdoors and getting fresh air can help reduce stress. While stress is a huge factor in maintaining mental fitness, it is also associated with various illnesses and exacerbate any existing medical condition you may have. Hence, one of the goals to being physically and mentally healthy is to reduce stress. Just like how any physical exercise helps to reduce stress, kayaking provides you with the same stress-relieving benefit.
9. Increase happiness
Being in the midst of nature is not just enjoyable, it can make you kinder, happier, and more creative. Since kayaking is done outdoors, it is an ideal activity if you want to be happy by spending time outdoors.
Aside from nature’s effect on your mood, aerobic exercises like kayaking increase the release of certain chemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, in the brain. These neurotransmitters, especially endorphins, help regulate one’s mood, making them feel happier, and can also uplift people’s confidence. Due to this effect, kayaking and exercise, in general, are encouraged in people who are undergoing depression. In short, it is a sport that can improve your overall mental health and well-being.
You may also want to consider clear bottom kayaks, depending on how clear the waters are in your area and whether you love seeing lots of beautiful fish.
10. Improve focus
This advantage of kayaking is again very closely related to the past three mental health benefits. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are neurotransmitters that will improve one’s focus and attention. While you exercise by kayaking, these chemicals are released in the brain.
You can spend a few hours a week focusing on this sport and these times can serve as a mental break from problems or challenges you may be facing. Breaks like these allow you to get right back to it afterwards with more focus and motivation. Doing so will surely increase your chances of finding the right solutions.
11. Enhance memory
Being more active and exercising regularly can help improve your memory and thinking skills. Aerobic exercises, unlike resistance training and muscle toning exercises, can increase the size of the hippocampus, which is the specific portion of the brain that is responsible for learning and verbal memory.
Kayaking is a type of aerobic exercise and performing it consistently will stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in your brain and raise the total number of new brain cells. Overall, it can significantly help the brain stay healthy.
12. Improve the quality of sleep
Exercising during the day will make you feel exhausted and will help you fall asleep much faster than when you do nothing the entire day. Also, expending all the energy you have can help you stay in deep sleep longer, improving your sleep quality throughout the night.
13. Provide time for bonding and socializing
Kayaking doesn’t entail any complicated instructions or concepts, making it easy for anyone to start learning. You can ask any of your family members or friends to join you so that you can share a more memorable and enjoyable experience together. No matter how busy you are at work during the weekdays, it is best to allocate some time to socialize and bond, especially with your family.
If you have no one to enjoy this activity with, you may find kayakers’ organizations or clubs. Joining one of these clubs is an excellent opportunity to meet new people and widen your circle of friends.
14. Allow time for reflection
While spending time with other people is good for you, it is just as important to find time to reflect and reconnect with yourself. If you are looking for a sport you can enjoy by yourself, kayaking is one that can be easily done solo. You can do some of your explorations without bringing anyone and spend it focusing on yourself. If you like to mediate, being in nature can provide you with the perfect setting
15. Provide opportunity for self-improvement
Kayaking can be an excellent opportunity for self-improvement. You can keep track of your performance with every kayaking session. Each time you go kayaking, record your speed, the distance you covered, and the time that you finished kayaking. Keep track of your performance and set small goals for your improvement. Seeing your improvements will provide you with self-satisfaction.
Know of more benefits of kayaking? Shoot us an email and we’ll add yours to the list (with credit!)
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