Paddling: Health Benefits

HanaPaddleIt was the end of a long day, at the end of a long week. Frankly, it has been a long month as well.
It was Friday around 6 p.m. I knew I had to get out, to move, and I had about three hours of remaining daylight, which gave me options. Trouble was, I was drained and my initial thoughts — a run, a mountain bike ride, a hike — all sounded exhausting. I needed refreshing, recharging. The answer quickly became obvious.
A lake paddle.
Within 10 minutes my boat was on the car, within 30 minutes I was putting in at Jordan Lake, at the Ebenezer Church boat ramp. With a steady, rhythmic, almost zenlike stroke, I paddled east up the narrowing finger of the lake that would quickly shun the powerboat crowd and eventually deposit me in the muddle of lake and supporting tributary, in this case, Beaver Creek. There, I coasted into a bed of lily pads, gently maneuvered my stern to face west and enjoyed a quiet and quite spectacular sunset over the water.
Refreshed. Recharged.
Ask a paddler about the pursuit's health benefits and doubtless he or she will dwell on the emotional, the spiritual: "It clears my head." In fact, they may not even get to the physical because paddling rarely seems like work. It is, however, a good physical workout:

  • Lats and shoulders. They are generally in constant motion, though with a proper stroke, you likely won’t realize (until the next day) that you are working these muscles.
  • Core (back and stomach). That proper stroke? It utilizes your core, continuously, while you are paddling. Your core muscles also play a key role in the ongoing (but often unnoticed) effort to keep the boat stable.
  • Legs. That stability thing? Your legs are in on that, too.
  • Aerobics. It takes a beating heart to maintain a steady pace. Men’s Health even deemed kayaking one of the best activities for heart health.
  • Good source of Vitamin D. Most folks don’t get their daily dose of Vitamin D, especially if they’re confined to a cubicle most of the day (odd how we have less tolerance for animals being confined to restricted spaces than we do for ourselves). Out on the water, you’ll get oodles. (Though be sure to protect yourself against too much direct sunlight with sunscreen and protective clothing.)
  • Weight loss/maintenance. A 170-pound person paddling for two hours burns about 750 calories. Your results may very; check here.

Paddling: the benefits of a workout without the work.

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