During 2013, more people in the U.S. tried paddle boarding for the first time than any other first-time sport, and the reasons for that are obvious to anyone who has ever tried to climb on top of a paddle board. Even if you're into the more relaxing version of the sport, rather than surfing or racing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) can be loads of fun, and it also offers some strong health and fitness benefits.
Most new paddle boarders likely anticipated the fitness benefits, but they may not have considered how much they would enjoy the peacefulness of floating with friends, or going for a quiet solo paddle. The stress relief from becoming one with the water is hard to quantify.
But we focus here on the fitness benefits of paddle boarding. We describe some of the most important health benefits below. We primarily discuss the casual version of the sport, but the fitness benefits are even greater for the surfing or racing approach to paddle boarding. You can work up to that after you learn the basics.
Works the entire body
This may be the single most compelling fitness benefit of paddle boarding because just about every muscle in your body will be engaged at some point during your session. Your entire core, including your back, is involved with trying to keep your balance throughout the duration of the exercise. Leg muscles are also in constant use as they work to maintain stability and balance while you're standing and moving. And, of course, your paddling engages the arms, shoulders, and back muscles. By the end of a workout, your body's muscles will feel the burn.
The faster you paddle around on a body of water, the more your heart rate will increase, and the more exercise your heart will get. This is especially true if you're having fun races around the pond or lake with friends, or if you happen to be surfing and paddling in on a tall wave. By spending an hour or more paddle boarding, you can also burn a significant number of calories. Industry communications leader SUP World Mag conducted a study on the matter, and found that casual paddle boarding burned between 305 and 430 calories per hour, depending on how vigorously the subject was engaged. For athletes involved with stand up paddle boarding racing, that calorie burn rose as high as 1,100 per hour.
The fact that paddle boarding is a low-impact exercise makes it ideal for many people, especially those who have been injured and are rehabilitating some part of their body. Even seniors can benefit from this relatively mild form of exercise, because it does not place strain on the knees or on other joints around the body. At the same time, however, it delivers a workout similar to running, walking, jogging, or biking.
This may sound like a 'soft' benefit, but for anyone who has considerable stress in their life, this exercise can be a godsend. Just by being in the water and moving through it, the soothing wetness and comforting sounds can begin to melt away stress, and bring contentment to the paddle boarder. The benefits of being outdoors also come into play, as practitioners commune with nature, and spend priceless time in a natural setting. As most people know by now, stress can be a powerful enemy of good health, so anything that can be done to banish it, even for an hour or so, is worthwhile.
Greater overall strength
Because it uses all the muscles in your body every time you go out, paddle boarding can increase your overall strength fairly quickly. You'll probably feel quite sore after your first few times paddle boarding, and that's a sign that your muscles are being stressed and strengthened. If you really want to build up arms, chest, core, and legs, you can take it beyond casual paddle boarding, and incorporate some powerful strokes into your workouts.
How to get started
If you've never tried paddle boarding before, you're in for a wonderful time when you finally get into the water. In terms of equipment, all you really need to cover the basics are a paddle board and a paddle, although there are plenty of other accessories you could also invest in. It seems that everyone who tries this sport falls in love with it, and chances are that if you take to the water yourself, you'll fall into that same fast-growing category of paddle boarding enthusiasts.