Kayaking for Health
May 27, 2010 09:21PM
For years, much media coverage of kayaking has characterized it as a young person’s adrenaline sport. Lately, the focus has changed to encompass a wider audience by spreading the word on sea kayaking, day-touring and recreational paddling. Now, enthusiasts of all ages and from all walks of life are on the water, communing with nature, exploring lake systems and even kayaking among whales. Thus, more people are becoming aware of kayaking’s multifaceted health benefits, which typically include a harmonizing effect on mind, body and spirit.
Tone and Strengthen Core Muscles
Contrary to what many believe, kayaking does not demand aggressive arm action or upper body strength. The biomechanics of stroke efficiency are readily achieved through coordination between the paddler, paddle, boat and water. Power for propelling the kayak comes from the paddler’s core muscles and is primarily achieved through torso rotation; this engages the larger, more powerful, back and abdominal muscles.
It makes sense that toning the core muscles helps to alleviate lower back pain often associated with middle age. The forward stroke also draws power from the lower body, which is why it’s important to have a firm foot brace system in the kayak; as the paddler uses his right arm to draw the right paddle blade through the water, he pushes with the corresponding foot, which transfers that energy from the lower body through the upper portion of the stroke. At the same time, his left arm bends and pushes out from the shoulder towards the bow of the kayak, providing each stroke an added kick of thrust. Thus, kayaking becomes an all-encompassing workout.
Whether to help maintain a high level of fitness or indulge in more relaxed “lily dipping” on nature’s ponds, using proper techniques makes kayaking both enjoyable and physically beneficial.
Improve Bone Density and Stimulate Joints
Experience shows that the rhythmic movements of paddling help keep the joints fluid while increasing overall flexibility and balance. Water provides a natural resistance and paddlers make use of this basic workout principle to maintain bone density and boost metabolism.
Of course, burning extra calories functions as an aid to weight loss, which in turn relieves stress on joints, as well. Advances in equipment, such as lighter paddles with narrower blades and ergonomic shafts, help to maximize efficiency and offset the effects of the repetitive motions of paddling.
Most people in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world are looking for ways to relieve stress associated with their busy lives. For those seeking greater adventure, kayaking can be elevated to offer the challenges of expedition travel. Those seeking the solace of softer adventure revel in gliding through secluded lakes and hearing unforgettable bird calls. Always, kayaking can serve as a meditative, environmentally friendly water sport alternative that everyone can enjoy.
Kayaking clubs and paddling centers provide opportunities to meet and mingle with kindred spirits who share a healthy respect for nature. It’s often considered to be a leisurely social activity and a preferred, environmentally conscious way to feel at one with nature. Paddling, a necessary means of transportation for native peoples and explorers in the Americas, is today a pleasant and healthy way to integrate with history, heritage, nature and geography.
Christine Showler, owner of Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre, in Ontario, Canada, is happy to answer questions about the benefits of kayaking. Call 613-376-6220 and visit http://Frontenac-Outfitters.com.