As a healthcare professional, we know you are busy, busy, busy. Working long shifts and odd hours can take its toll on you both physically and mentally. An important fact to keep in mind is that it is just as important to take care of yourself as it is your family and your patients. One of the best ways to de-stress is to hit the water. I’m not talking about literally hitting the water like a speed bag, instead, think about gliding across the water. The latest rage for outdoor lovers everywhere is kayaking and paddle boarding. Any activity that gets you outside and onto a body of water will have amazing mental and physical health benefits. Let’s take a quick look at how kayaking can help you de-stress and re-energize.
Getting Started. If you have never been kayaking or paddle boarding before, the best way to introduce yourself to being on the water is to rent or borrow the equipment for your first few trips out. Because of the popularity of the sport, virtually every waterway will have a rental location for the “boat”, paddles, and safety equipment. It is a very inexpensive way to introduce yourself to the activity. Once you are ready to purchase, do a little homework and determine what will best suit your needs. Here is a great place to start.
Exercise Your Mind. Medical researchers are always touting the benefits of exercise for your physical and mental health. When people think about kayaking, they aren’t really considering it as a form of exercise. Don’t let the thought of gracefully gliding across serene waters, while surrounded by nature and wildlife as a sedentary activity. Kayaking requires some physical effort and with that comes the release of important brain chemicals that help your mental state. Paddling a kayak is one of the more supremely relaxing forms of exercise you will find.
Cardio/Weight Loss. Sure, there are other activities that can help you burn more calories than kayaking, but few are as much fun. Paddling a kayak can help you burn 300 calories or more per hour depending on your weight and effort. Once you are comfortable on the water, you can mix up your speed/effort levels and create a fun workout. If you are kayaking on larger bodies of water with some swell, or on a river with currents, you can burn 2 or more times the typical amount of calories. Now, do you still want to stick to your boring, old elliptical?
Paddle Away Your Waistline. Kayaking is a great activity to strengthen and tone your all-important core muscles. From lifting and pushing your kayak to the water, to all of the balancing and twisting you do while out paddling, your core (front and back) is getting a great workout.
Low-Impact Results. Obviously, your upper body is getting the most benefit from your new kayaking adventures. Your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back will soon reward you by firming up and becoming noticeably more toned. Also, the low impact nature of kayaking provides your tired feet and knees with some respite while you are out on the water. Your legs are slightly involved as you use them to maintain stability in the kayak, but after being on your feet for a 12-hour shift, taking your kayak out to unwind will not place further pressure on your lower body.
Buddy System. Kayaking is a great activity to do with friends and family. Persons of any age and fitness level can learn to manage the boat quickly and enjoy the journey. Also, having a kayaking buddy will provide you with the motivation and opportunity to seek out new bodies of water and places to visit. Kayaking can also be a family affair. Getting the whole family out for a day on the water is the perfect way to keep everyone active. Does your dog like an adventure? Bring your pup along for the ride. With very little coaxing, they will be right at home in the cockpit of your kayak as you take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Note: If you own a Great Dane or St. Bernard, you may want to go with a two-person kayak, or stick to a canoe!
Stand Up! For a more intense, full-body workout, many water enthusiasts have turned to Stand-Up Paddleboarding. Standing up on the water is a bit more adventurous and requires more skill. However, for an exciting cross-training activity, a Paddleboard is the best way to see your surroundings on the water from a new perspective.
By now, I am quite sure that you are ready to get out and see what all of the fuss is about. Kayaking has become extremely popular because it is not only a fitness activity but the mental benefits are just as important. Within your first few strokes of the paddle, you will be asking yourself why it took you so long to try it out. The peaceful nature of floating along a quiet river, seeing fish swim beneath you, and watching and listening to the birds and other wildlife is a sure fire recipe for a calm, relaxed, and rejuvenated mind. Make time to venture out and you too will discover why a simple kayak can bring you so much peace. Go ahead, get out and enjoy the water!
Do you kayak? Tell us your favorite kayaking story in the comment section below. Or join the conversation on our Facebook page.