Most of those who never experienced Stand Up Paddle Boarding perceive it as a leisure activity, often described as "walking" on water. Those who do practice it, will definitely disagree.
From a Fitness perspective, an hour-long paddle can be one of the most effective workouts one can have, even at a low intensity. Simply standing upright on your board will burn calories due to your muscles working to keep your balance.
As opposed to other balance-focused sports, such as Surfing or Skateboarding, Stand Up Paddle Boarding doesn't only challenge your core muscles , but also your entire upper body. Once you’ve mastered control of your board, you'll have to set yourself in motion, which can become a true labor.
Every paddle stroke activates your mid back muscles (latissimus Dorsi), Shoulders (deltoids), Arms (triceps & biceps) and abs, offering you a complete workout.
Simply pumping up your SUP can be a workout of its own (if you know, you know!). People often underestimate the task and completely lose their breath before even getting to step on the board. On average this can take you around 15-20 minutes and burn as much as 70-100 calories.
There are many factors that influence the number of calories you can burn during a paddle session, such as speed, intensity, weather and water conditions as well as the paddlers height, weight and heart rate. Of course, there are some average numbers and calculations that more or less apply to everyone.
Casual and recreational paddle boarding, which implies paddling at a low to moderate pace, can burn around 310 to 450 calories per hour. That's twice the number of calories that you would burn by walking at a moderate pace for 1 hour. So, every time you go for a relaxing evening paddle on your local canal, you actually end up with a pretty decent workout.
For those who want to step their game up and engage in SUP Touring (paddling over long distances without stopping), the calorie count for one hour of paddling can go as high as 750 at an average speed of 3 mph.
SUP racing on the other hand, which involves high intensity paddling can burn up to 1200 calories in an hour. This number has been calculated at an average speed of 5mph. However, SUP racing is open only to the select few that have mastered their boards and have the required fitness and stamina to maintain their speed over a long period of time.
Other activities such as SUP Surfing or SUP Yoga can be very effective at burning calories. SUP Surfing is a great cross-over sport for both paddlers and surfers alike, which can help you burn up to 750 calories per 1-hour session. You won’t be paddling as much, but wrestling with the elements can make for one hell of a workout.
SUP Yoga is deemed to be the ultimate Yoga experience due to a combination of setting, balance and breathing. Being outdoors, especially on the water helps relax the mind and improve your breathing. As for the workout aspect, whoever has done Yoga before, knows that it’s not just a bit of stretching, especially when practicing the more advanced poses. Most of us can’t find the right balance on the living room floor, now imagine the same workout on a 32” wide board, not the easiest of tasks. So, back to the maths: an average hour-long SUP Yoga session can help you burn well in excess of 500 calories, which is not much higher than your indoor Yoga session, but the experience is far more enjoyable.
Now, to help you put the above numbers in perspective, Jobe have put together a list comparing the calorie count of other popular activities:
In general, the answer is yes, if done within reason. With the exception of SUP Surfing, most of the paddling is done in calm, open waters. Having a buoyancy aid is always recommended, wearing a leash is always necessary. Other than falling in from time to time, there’s little risk to paddling, unless of course, you’re in sub 0 temperatures and you risk hypothermia, but again, these are extreme cases.
However, as with any other sporting activity, long term injuries are still a threat. In Paddle Boarding most problems occur in the shoulder area due to poor technique. So before intensifying your workout, make sure you master your paddling technique first, otherwise you will regret it months, in some cases even weeks later.
The paddle you use can also have a major impact on your paddling. For casual and novice paddlers, an alloy or plexiglass paddle will do, as their higher weight can help you control your movements better. However, when paddling over longer stretches and at a higher intensity you might want to consider a lighter, carbon-based paddle, which will massively reduce the stress put on your shoulders with every stroke.
To conclude, Paddle Boarding whether done casually or intensely can make for a great workout that beats going to the gym any day of the week. Of course, weather can become a factor, but there’s a lot of equipment and technical clothing out there to keep you paddling safely all year round. Especially with most sporting venues being closed for the time being, there was never a better time to start paddle boarding!
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