Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Health Benefits of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Almost every sport offers some health benefits - some more than others.  So how does stand-up paddle boarding rate?

In my quest for alternatives to the gym, I came across many articles touting the health benefits of stand-up paddle boarding.  But how healthy can it really be?  In many pictures, I see individuals almost casually coasting across clear, smooth water.  Not exactly what I envision when I think of exercise.

Woman on SUP

So what's the answer?  How does it rate against other forms of exercise?  Well ... like most things in life, the answer is complicated.

Myth One: It's a great way to exercise your core

Well, that is true, but it isn't necessarily true in all cases.  Using an SUP can be a great way to exercise your core, but only if you do it right.  And by right, I mean you have to push yourself.  If you can easily cruise around the lake for hours without feeling much in the way of muscle aches, you probably aren't getting much of a workout.

yoga on SUP

So how do you maximize your core routine on an SUP?  Dig deep.  Dig hard.  Fully rotate your torso with each stroke. 

Try going out on windy days when the rougher water presents more of a challenge.  If that feels a bit daunting, go out on calm water but set goals for yourself.  See how fast you can go, have a race with a fellow paddle boarder, or try adding a new component - like yoga - to your routine.

Myth Two: It's great for your cardiovascular system

Good?  Okay, yes, just about every form of exercise is good for your heart.  But does stand-up paddle boarding really improve your heart health enough to be considered great?  Again, yes and no.  According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), most who paddle board don't hit the target zone for heart rate during exercise.  The harder you work on the water, the more your heart will work, so pushing yourself is obviously better than cruising along at a leisurely pace.

SUP race

Are all the benefits myths?

Not at all.  In fact, even the first two "myths" are only so in certain situations.  And there are a surprising number of other benefits to be gained from a few peaceful hours out on an SUP.  Here are a few of our favorites:

1: It's low-impact

This is great for those with joint pain or those who are recovering from an injury.  You can work your muscles, stretch them, and not have to worry about repeated stress on your ankles, knees, and hips.


2: It's a great way to relieve stress

All exercise releases endorphins, which helps to boost your mood.  Stand-up paddle boarding adds another, often overlooked, benefit - "blue space".  Research has shown that just looking at a picture of nature, specifically one with water, can help create a better sense of well-being.  Feeling good about yourself can go a long way toward living a healthier lifestyle.  

3: Social Health

We've talked about physical health and we've talked about mental health ... but what about social health?  Is that a real term?  I don't know, but if not, it should be.  Humans are social creatures and our general satisfaction with life, happiness, and well-being is closely related to the quality of our relationships.

Three people on SUPs

Stand-up paddle boarding is a wonderful way to spend time with friends or get to know someone new.  It's quiet enough to allow conversations, is easy enough for anyone to learn, and is a great activity to do as a group.

Final Thoughts

Should you invest in an SUP?  Yes.  Not because it's going to make you dominate in the next triathlon or because it will knock three inches off your waist, but because any step you take to get out and do more is a step in the right direction.  The more opportunities you give yourself to exercise and release stress, the better off you will be.

So the next time your best friend asks if you want to take a spin class at the local gym, suggest paddle boarding instead.  As far as well-rounded, integrated exercises go, stand-up paddle boarding stands alone.

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