Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Kayaking

Kayaking is a fun and engaging outlet that keeps your body fit and healthy. So, adding this sport to your routine will do wonders physically and psychologically. Continue reading to discover the health benefits of kayaking. 

What is Kayaking?

Kayaking is a water activity in which a paddler propels a low-sitting boat called a Kayak with a double-ended, handed paddle. As a result, it is a great low-impact activity offering fun and allowing you to enjoy the beauty of nature. It also has numerous health benefits not limited to increasing strength, fitness and mobility. 

Benefits of Kayaking

In addition to being a pleasurable and entertaining pastime, kayaking has numerous physical and mental health benefits.

Mental BenefitsPhysical Benefits
1. Improves Mood7. Weight Loss and Management
2. Stimulates Memory8. Develop Toned Legs
3. Reduces Stress9. Improved Upper Body Strength
4. Improved Sleep Habits10. Increased Core Strength
5. Improves Focus11. Increased Stamina and Endurance
6. Helps with Bonding and Socializing12. Increased Cardiovascular Health
13. Activates Vitamin D

Mental Benefits

1. Improves Mood

One of the best ways to improve your mood is immersing oneself in nature. This is because nature has a calming effect on the mind and is a perfect mood booster.

It achieves this by facilitating the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Consequently, these chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and significant endorphins boost the mood. As a result, kayaking has been a go-to for people living with depression. 

2. Reduces Stress

One way to relieve stress is by spending time kayaking outdoors. Stress is a huge factor in managing mental fitness. It causes your body to release certain chemicals that can make you feel irritated, anxious or depressed.

3. Improves Focus

The brain secretes neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine during kayaking, chemicals associated with an increase in attention span and focus.

In addition to this, going out and focusing on serene views takes your mind off stressful conditions. This makes kayaking an excellent way to detach and unwind, allowing you to focus.

4. Improved Sleep Habits

Like all other exercises, kayaking leaves you exhausted. When you exercise, your body consumes more energy, leaving you drained and prime for sleep. If you have sleeping difficulties, kayaking will help improve your sleeping habits. You’ll realize that the quality of your sleep increases, and you will begin to feel more rested.

5. Stimulates Memory

According to experts at Harvard Health, you can improve memory and cognitive skills with regular moderate-intensity exercise. This is because regular exercise improves sleep, focus, and mood. Besides exercising your body muscles, kayaking also exercises your brain muscles.

Kayaking has a dual effect on the brain. The first is it trains the hippocampus, the part of the brain linked with emotion and memory. The other is that it facilitates improved blood flow to all parts of your body transporting vitamins, nutrients and other essentials that ensure the growth of new cells, brain cells in this case.

6. Helps with Bonding and Socializing

Kayaking is a very social sport. It is an effective way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Joining a kayak team, participating in competitions, and attending paddle classes gives you the perfect opportunity to bond with new people.

Kayaking is more fun when done with others. Whether you are paddling lazily on still waters or rigorously on white waters, it builds teamwork while still having fun.

Physical Benefits

7. Develop Toned Legs

Although kayaking focuses more on the upper body, the lower body is not left out. Kayaking also helps you develop solid and well-toned legs. Leg muscles play an important role when kayaking. They help with balancing when needed, maneuvering the kayak or changing directions. These movements help strengthen your hip muscles, thigh extensor muscles, and feet muscles, keeping them toned. 

8. Activates Vitamin D

Vitamin D ensures a robust immune system and promotes brain development, muscle function, and heart health. It is inadequately present in food sources.  

This requires our bodies to synthesize and activate the vitamin on exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which you get when you bask in the sun while kayaking.  

9. Improved Upper-Body Strength

Kayaking requires a lot of upper body movement. Most of your upper body muscles, like your shoulders, chest, arms and back, are exercised while kayaking. These exertions strengthen your upper body and give you a toned outlook.

A mile of kayaking would require about 500 strokes, depending on certain factors. This implies that an individual can do about 1,500 repetitions of low-impact upper body movements in an hour, paddling a kayak at three mph.

10. Increased Core Strength

Your core consists of thirty muscles within your ribcage and hips. These muscles are active in every move made and help your upper and lower body work perfectly.

When kayaking, these core muscles are engaged. Each stroke stretches the abdominal and contracts the lower back muscles. Even sitting erect in the kayak engages your core muscles, so every kayaking expedition provides a simple core exercise.

11. Weight Loss and Management

Kayaking as an exercise helps you burn calories and lose weight. A person paddling at an average speed of 5 MPH can burn about 500 calories per hour. According to the American Council on Exercise, a 150-pound person can burn 340 calories an hour while kayaking. 

You don’t need to spend hours on a treadmill or cycling down a hill. Dedicating a few hours to kayaking would help you achieve your target weight. 

12. Improved Cardiovascular Health

Kayaking is excellent for your heart and cardiovascular system. Additionally, It is an aerobic, cardiovascular exercise. The quick and energetic motions of paddling cause increased heart rates. This allows more air to flow to your lungs, opening up your heart, lungs and blood vessels.

This exercise strengthens your heart muscles allowing it to pump blood easily, keeping your heart healthy and reducing the risk of diseases like

  • Diabetes, 
  • High blood pressure and others. 

13. Increased Stamina and Endurance Level

One fun fact about kayaking is that the longer you paddle, the easier it becomes. This is because paddling for hours improves your stamina and allows you to kayak for more extended periods without getting fatigued. Like any other endurance sport like running, surfing or swimming, kayaking is an excellent exercise to build up endurance. It improves your overall stamina and strengthens your lungs.

You don’t have to start an intense kayaking routine to increase your stamina. At least three times a week, Kayaking can give you a 20% boost.


Besides being a fun and recreational activity, kayaking also offers many health benefits. When done correctly, kayaking helps improve your physical health and mental state. Regular kayaking gives you more substantial muscles and limbs, improves your mood and sleeping habits, and is an effective way to activate Vitamin D. Grab your kayak and have healthy fun! 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does Kayaking Burn Belly Fat? 

Yes, constant paddling exerts pressure on the core parts of the body, burning calories and leaving you with firmer abs. 

How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn?

For a 1-hour kayaking ride, a 130-lbs person can lose about 300 calories. However, this depends on various factors like 

  • Currents
  • Weather conditions and 
  • Speed.

What Muscles Do You Use Kayaking?

When kayaking, we use three major muscles. These are:

  • Rhomboid Muscles,
  • Latissimus Dorsi and
  • Trapezius Muscles.

These are located at the back, and they are the muscles behind every stroke of your paddle.

Is Kayaking Good for Mental Health?

Yes, kayaking is an excellent mental health booster. When kayaking, your brain releases neurotransmitters like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals help you relax, boost self-confidence and put you in a better mood. 

How Long Can You Kayak In A Day?

On average, a kayaker should be able to paddle about 10 to 12 miles a day. This depends on the type of kayak, the wind condition, and the paddles. Experienced kayakers should be able to cover more ground in a day.

Is Kayaking Good for Your Shoulders?

Yes, kayaking helps in improving your shoulder muscles. Basically, kayaking works on all the muscles in your shoulders and back. When paddling, the shoulder muscles- deltoids are pulled, and other rotation muscles help stabilize the arms. This action results in toned arms and strong shoulders.

How do you get fit for kayaking?

Note that you don’t need enormous muscles to paddle a kayak. Before your first kayaking trip get yourself into a healthy routine. Start a mild aerobic exercise like cycling or swimming and also build strength by working on your major muscles.