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May 02, 2021 7 min read

What are the health benefits of paddle boarding?

Paddle boarding is a great activity that gets you on the water for fresh air and fun, while it also has many health benefits for your entire body. A leisurely day on your paddle board not only strengthens your muscles, burns calories, and provides necessary vitamin D, but it can also improve your mental health. 

Yes, the health benefits of paddle boarding are huge!

It’s a no-brainer! 

Why go for a jog if paddling across glassy waters on a sunny day is good for you?

Stop surfing the channels as you sit on your couch and hop aboard a stand up paddle board to surf. Or simply tour the harbor or a local lake and get your heart pumping. Paddle boarding is a low-impact exercise that happens to be both fun and relaxing.

Let’s review the physical and mental benefits of stand up paddle boarding before heading out on the water.

What are the health benefits of paddle boarding

What Muscles Do You Use When Paddle Boarding?

Paddle boarding is a whole-body workout. You strengthen your arm and leg muscles to propel your board through the water, but you also utilize core, back, and small muscles to maintain your balance.

Being low-impact, there is less risk of injury when paddle boarding. As you build up tiny muscles to maintain your balance, you stabilize your joints.

Muscle Groups Used to Paddle Board

Infographic: Core Muscle Activation During Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The simple act of getting onto a paddle board and then standing can be a workout. By using the necessary muscles to balance, you improve your posture and coordination.

Even though paddle boarding works your entire body, we will break it down to the larger muscle groups utilized. 

LEGS

Your hamstrings and quadriceps provide most of the work to stand tall or to bend at the knees. The muscles continuously adjust to maintain your balance. 

BACK

Your back powers each paddle stroke, and helps maintain your balance. Your rhomboids are located in the upper-middle back and are essential for balance. Your trapezius muscles help you twist and move your arms, while your latissimus dorsi helps you pull your arms toward the body.

CORE

Your core muscles also maintain your balance and fuel your strokes. The most important component of your core stabilization is the abdominal muscles. Your obliques work as you rotate when paddling on each side of your board.

As you improve your core strength, you will be more stable on your board, improve your overall balance, and reduce your fall risk. 

SHOULDERS

Paddling targets your shoulders. Your shoulders provide the force to pull, dip, and hoist your paddle. The more you paddle, the stronger your shoulder muscles become — more productive time on the water.

ARMS

Your arms are essential to paddle your board. Your triceps and biceps bend and straighten your arm as a team to drive your paddle through the water. 

FEET

You’ll realize the necessity of a cushioned deck pad after a day standing on your paddle board. The small muscles in your feet tighten to maintain your balance. As you become a seasoned paddle boarder, your feet will be able to relax.

Does Your Paddle Board Position Change the Workout?

Your paddle board position change the workout

You can paddle board while standing up, lying down, or kneeling. Each position can target different muscle groups, but all positions work your core and back muscles to balance. 

Kneeling or lying belly-down on your board eliminates the use of your legs. Your arms and shoulders assume more of the work. If you lie on your stomach to paddle, your shoulders and back must be used to raise your head to see where you’re going. 

You could increase your arm workout even more if you put the paddle aside. Propel yourself with only your arms as you push away the water.

The Cardiovascular Benefits of Paddle Boarding

As you utilize every muscle to exercise, your heart rate increases and your breath quickens. The benefits to your heart increase as you paddle a little further or scoot a bit faster. The cardiovascular benefits of stand up paddle boarding help with weight loss and reducing your overall risk of a heart attack or stroke.

What Are The Psychological Benefits of Paddle Boarding?

Besides building muscle and providing a low-impact whole-body workout, being out on your paddle board can lower stress and improve your mental health.

Reduce stress 

After a bad day, grab your SUP and head to the water. The sounds of the birds in the trees and the water lapping against the shore is enough to wipe away your stress.

Lessen depression

Any physician will tell you that exercise improves mental health and can improve depression. What better way to elevate your mood than gliding across calm waters — A great time to reflect while you wipe away your stressors.  

Relax

After mastering your balance, it’s obvious that stand up paddle boarding is a relaxing sport. There’s a sense of solitude as you chart your course on the water. You connect with the rippling water and sounds of nature and breathe in the fresh air. It’s a very zen activity to help you unwind. 

Social

If solitude is not what you’re looking for, then paddle boarding can also be quite social! Grab an inflatable SUP and a group of friends to cruise the river or ocean bay. Most paddle boards have the capability to pack a cooler for drinks and snacks. It makes for a fun day on the water.

Connect with Nature

After a day staring at a computer screen or seeing your child’s face buried in their cell phone, launching a paddle board is a welcome escape to the outdoors. The fresh air is mandatory and therapeutic. Being on your SUP connects you with nature as you experience the sights and smells of the world around you. The rolling or splashing water lulls you into contentment.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Stand Up Paddle Boarding For An Hour?

Paddle Boarding Calories Burned Infographic

The average person can burn 400-550 calories after an hour of being on a paddle board.

It can be a great sport with the benefit of weight loss.

The number of calories burned will vary depending on a person’s weight and how hard they are paddling. The heavier you are, and the more adverse the weather is, the more calories you burn.

Using a paddle board to race or surf can burn up to 1000 calories, while a relaxing glide on glassy waters will burn fewer.

Cross Training on Your Paddle Board

A SUP board is versatile to allow you to vary your fitness routines. By jazzing up your paddle board with different SUP accessories, you can avoid the same boring workouts.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Adventure SUPs

There are different styles of SUP boards to cater to your adventure needs. Maybe you want an all-around SUP to cruise at your own speed. GILI offers two inflatable paddle boards perfect for recreational use. The GILI 10’6 Air or the GILI 10’6 Komodo.

To up your game and push yourself, You could grab a narrow, stream-lined GILI Adventure or the GILI Touring iSUP for long paddle tours or racing. 

2. Fishing SUPs

Convert your SUP to a fishing barge for a different level of training. You still utilize your muscles to balance on your SUP while casting your rod and hopefully have the added benefit of catching your dinner. Convert your current board by installing a rod holder to your SUP.

3. Yoga SUPs

Paddle boarding improves core strength and posture, but doing yoga on your board takes this to a whole new level. Significant stamina and balance are necessary to yoga while you float on the water. When wanting to yoga on a paddle board, choose a wider board for more stability and one with a large deck for room to strike a pose.

4. Surfing SUPs

Yes, you can surf with a SUP board! Finding a sleek, shorter board with a pointed nose will allow you to cut in and out of waves for an added workout option. 

SUP Health Benefits: Vitamin D

Vitamin D health benefits of paddle boarding

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is deficient in many people. A low vitamin D level can cause fatigue, memory issues, and fragile bones. When sunlight hits our skin, the body produces vitamin D. What better way to soak up some essential vitamin D then to relax on your paddle board in the sun.

Paddle Board Safety

You can’t maintain your health if you’re not safe in the water. Here are a few things to make sure you have a safe day on the water.

  • PFD - A life preserver will hopefully never need to be utilized, but in the case of the unexpected, you won’t want to be without it.
  • Sun protection - One of the main points of having a SUP is to get physical activity as you soak up some rays — but not too much! There’s a risk of sunburn, dehydration, and sun-related eye injury. Remember to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and bottled water in your dry bag.
  • GPS - Depending on your intended travels and familiarity with the surroundings, a GPS watch or app on your phone may be helpful. Chart your path so you can find your way home safely.
  • Emergency Supplies - Don’t forget your SUP board repair kit in case your inflatable SUP tumbles in the coral. Load a First Aid app on your cell phone in case of a minor injury. Don’t forget to store your phone in a waterproof case.
  • Leash - Attach your ankle leash to the board’s D-ring for protection. If you have an unexpected fall, you don’t want to chase your board across the bay.
  • Weather - Know the forecast. Consider loading a weather app on your cell phone to assure you won’t be fighting high winds on your return trip or a possible storm.

SUP Health Benefits Summarized

Benefits of paddle boarding to your health

The list of potential health benefits while paddle boarding is long. Not only is it a low-impact, low-intensity option for fitness, but the benefits will also follow you onto dry land. 

Use of your core back, and abdominal muscles will improve your overall balance and posture. Your arms, legs, back, and shoulders will grow stronger with every journey. 

You can lose weight and burn calories while enjoying a great day in the sun. Take your adventure to higher levels with surfing, racing, or yoga to intensify your weight loss efforts. 

Possibly the most important health benefit of paddle boarding is improving your mental health. Connecting with nature and breathing fresh air reduces stress and improves your mood. 

So what are you waiting for! Hop on your board and improve your health.

Pat McCaw
Pat McCaw

Author, physician, mom and lover of all things outdoors. If there’s water or a hiking trail nearby, that's her happy place. Throw in family and a couple of dogs and it's paradise!


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