Is Kayaking Good for Weight Loss? How Kayaking Can Help You Slim Down

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It’s no secret that proper diet and exercise are key to maintaining (or reaching) a healthy weight. But exercising solely to lose weight can become a chore – leading more people to seek out activities that are fun, but still help to burn calories.

But what about kayaking?  Is kayaking good for weight loss? 

The short answer is yes, Kayaking is great for weight loss. It engages many muscle groups, increases blood flow, reduces stress, and the act of paddling can burn calories plus the more frequently you kayak, the greater the weight loss and health benefits

It’s fascinating just how healthy kayaking can be and if you want to learn how all these benefits interact to improve your health and enable you to lose weight then read on. 

Key Takeaways

  • Kayaking is a fun and effective way to burn calories and can help you achieve your weight goals depending on your consistency and intensity.
  • It can also help to reduce stress, enhance mood, and connect with nature or socialize with others.
  • Kayaking cannot target specific areas of fat, but it can tone the upper body and core muscles.
  • It’s a suitable activity for people of different fitness levels and can be done at a leisurely or intense pace.
  • Kayaking is a great alternative to more conventional exercises like jogging, which can be boring and hard on the joints.

Does Kayaking Help You Lose Weight?

Kayaking burns calories – and if you burn more calories than you take in then you will lose weight. Kayaking is also an adaptable activity,  you can make it quite intense or you can take it easy. 

Any form of exercise burns extra calories – which is why overweight people are encouraged to commit to arbitrary goals, like hitting 10,000 steps a day. However, this can become tedious quite quickly,  meaning that plenty of people fall at the first hurdle of weight loss – by failing to be consistent. This is where kayaking can be used to help lose weight instead. 


How Does Kayaking Help You Lose Weight?

As mentioned, kayaking burns calories, it’s a form of activity that can be intense or moderate. If you’re someone who enjoys a stroll on the water then you’re more likely to commit to it as a weight loss option. 

Kayaking is a great form of cardio exercise and works much of the musculature of the human body. While it’s not going to turn you into a bodybuilder, it’s a very healthy and fun way to get fitter, and using small boats to traverse waterways is something humans have done for thousands of years

Losing weight isn’t about fad diets and strict exercise regimes. It’s about creating a healthy lifestyle that works for you – so if you enjoy kayaking then why not use it to boost your health?

Does Kayaking Burn Belly Fat?

There is actually no exercise on the planet that can target a specific area of fat in the human body. This is called “spot reduction” and it’s a myth that most likely comes from exercise videos that became hugely popular in the 80s with the legendary Jane Fonda. 

It was often recommended to do hundreds of sit-ups and crunches to burn belly fat, but we now know this doesn’t work – these exercises develop the core but they won’t make your stomach smaller

Human body fat is stored across the entire body, you can’t target which areas will be burned first – this entirely depends on the individual. However, where kayaking can help is with strengthening the core muscles of the body. 

When you combine stronger core muscles with fat loss from kayaking over time, it will give the stomach a much flatter appearance but it’s impossible to specifically target belly fat with any exercise. 

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Is Kayaking a Full Body Workout?

Kayaking works tons of the musculature of the human body. It especially works the upper body – including the back, arm muscles, and core. These areas contain some of the major muscles in the entire body (like the Latissimus Dorsi or the “lats”). 

Kayaking strengthens the core considerably – the core is your abdominal muscles (the six-pack muscles), your obliques (muscles at the sides of the waist), and the lower back. When these are strong it contributes greatly to a more athletic appearance

Kayaking thoroughly works the cardiovascular system – which refers to the heart, blood vessels, and lungs that deliver blood, oxygen, and nutrients to all the cells in the human body. 

Even if you’re not a die-hard kayaking enthusiast, it’s a great option to add variation to your exercise routine. Kayaking is good exercise, and an excellent recreational activity, but it can also have amazing benefits for your health. 

How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn?

An average-weight person (classed as 155lbs) will burn 180 calories in 30 minutes (so around 360 per hour according to Harvard Health. However, the higher your weight the more calories you burn. This is also classed as a “leisurely paddle” which means it’s not an intense workout. 

The more vigorously you paddle, the more calories you’re going to burn. 

Is Kayaking Classed as Cardio?

Kayaking is a cardio workout as you’re using a great many major muscle groups and you’re elevating your heart rate over long periods. This all combines to make it a stellar cardiovascular choice. 

For example, while walking is great for elevating your heart rate – outside of the most sedentary people – it doesn’t stimulate the muscles that much. This means it’s a great activity but doesn’t stimulate the cardiovascular system as much as something like kayaking or jogging. 

How Does Kayaking Compare To Jogging?

When most people think of losing weight they most likely picture jogging almost immediately after. Jogging burns about 100 calories per mile and this depends on just how fast you can jog – although jogging fast over long periods is not sustainable consistently (nobody is going to be running a sub-ten-minute mile seven days a week).

Jogging is convenient but it’s also monotonous and is linked to joint problems in the ankles and knees. The other issue is that jogging strenuously can increase cortisol – which is a hormone that’s gotten a bad rep and chronically high levels of it can actually eat muscle tissue. 

Jogging also puts lots of weight and downward pressure on delicate joints and this is exacerbated the higher your weight is. Kayaking on the other hand is much gentler on the joints and is not a weight-bearing exercise. 

While jogging is by no means a bad exercise, a lot of people simply won’t do it consistently enough to lose weight. While kayaking may not burn as many calories as jogging in the short term, if you enjoy and do it consistently you’ll burn more overall. 

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What Are the Health Benefits of Kayaking?

Another important thing about weight loss is that there’s more to it than just calories burned. Your overall health and well-being are a huge part of the effectiveness of your weight loss workout.  

If you’re stressed, sleep deprived, or struggling in other ways then it will impact your overall weight loss success. This is where some of the more subtle benefits of kayaking come into place. 

Kayaking and Joint Health

Kayak paddling is based on rotational movements – but in a way that is extremely beneficial for our joints. Most of us spend all day with our shoulders slumped forwards and our necks drooping down and this leads to all kinds of problems with back, shoulder, and neck pain in later life. 

Kayaking uses the scapula (shoulder blades) to push the shoulders back to paddle and it’s important to keep your back upright to connect your core muscles to your movements. All this combines into actually preventing problems with shoulder joints. 

Having some kind of rotational movement like this is incredibly good for your back and overall well-being. In fact, many Olympic trainers insist that their athletes have some kind of rowing motion that trains the body in a similar way to kayaking.

Kayaking Is Great for Stress Relief 

Kayaking can be done at a much more leisurely pace and you’re surrounded by the beauty of nature at the same time. This is a terrific way to destress, as exercise by itself is your body’s natural stress reliever and kayaking can be quite gentle but still vigorous (almost like swimming). 

There’s also evidence that being in natural environments is great for reducing stress by itself. Kayaking down rivers or the sea is a great way to get in touch with nature and enjoy some fairly powerful benefits. 

Science confirms here what most people feel – refreshed and rejuvenated after spending time in nature. 


Kayaking Improves Emotional Health

Most people kayak with friends and family. This is a way to bond and have fun and is fantastic for both weight loss and health. If what you’re doing makes you feel good emotionally while giving you a good workout then it’s a win-win across the board. 

Having a support group to encourage you in your weight loss journey can also make all the difference. It helps your commitment and at the same time forges friendships and makes great memories. 

And if you prefer to kayak alone? Not everyone wants to be around people and that’s fine too. In this case, it gives you time to get away and reflect which can be equally as positive for your mental health. 

Can Kayaking Help Build Muscle?

The fact is, kayaking is not going to turn you into a powerlifter or bodybuilder. However, it can strengthen and tone the muscles in the upper body and arms. If you take a look at competitive kayakers then they often have strong-looking upper bodies. 

Kayaking leisurely in the water isn’t going to produce gargantuan arms but it will produce a healthy strength and tone. Over time, you might find your waist is getting slimmer and your upper body is bigger or more toned. 

Sometimes women worry that exercise will make them too muscular, but this isn’t going to happen with kayaking – it’s a great way to get a healthy-looking and athletic physique – no more and no less. 

How Fit Should You Be to Kayak?

Unless you intend to do competitive kayaking you don’t have to worry about being an olympic athlete before you start. The key is to learn the basics and get confident in your skills, but even if you’ve had a fairly sedentary life up until now, your body will adapt to the kayaking, 

You need not worry about not being fit enough to kayak if you’re new to it – take it slow and learn the basics, ease into it instead of forcing your body to work too hard too soon.

READ NEXT: Can Fat People Kayak? Breaking Down the Myths and Empowering Plus-Size Adventurers


Kayaking is a fantastic way to lose weight. It comes with a host of potent health benefits and it avoids some of the negatives that more conventional weight loss exercises have. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and learned something new. Please let us know in the comments or share if you think this would be helpful information for anyone you know. 

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