Great for building strength and endurance, kayaking can be a fun addition to your usual exercise regime.
When you think of exercises that burn fat and build muscle, it’s unlikely that kayaking comes to mind. After all, you just sit there and paddle around a bit, right? Naturally your arms get a solid workout from paddling, but experienced kayakers use their other muscle groups just as much as their arms and shoulders.
Arms and shoulders aside, other muscles worked include your back muscles (lower in particular), your core muscles (important for posture), and even your leg muscles! Kayaking also provides a fat burning work out controlled by how hard and fast you paddle - even a moderate paddle will get you in the fat burning zone.
Many popular lakes and rivers around Australia now provide a kayak hire-by-the-hour service which is a great opportunity for you to get a feel for it before you decide to go out and buy your own kayak. Otherwise there are many professional companies that offer beginner classes. Most people do learn how to kayak pretty quickly, and you’ll start to see the real fitness benefits once you get the hang of it - like any exercise you’ll continue to improve your form over time
But before you set out paddling there are a few basics you should know first:
Stretch it out
Stretch your upper body before and after you paddle. Cold muscles are more prone to injury and a stretch afterwards will reduce muscle ache and stiffness the next day.
Ensure your bottom is sitting comfortably in the contours of the seat, with the back rest adjusted to support your back. Your lower back and bottom should be 90 degrees of each other – you don’t want to be leaning too far backwards or forwards. Once you’ve adjusted your back support, place the balls of your feet on the foot pegs – toes pointed outward, heels pointed toward the centre of the kayak. It’s often best to practise on land before taking to the water. At the end of the day, you’re the best judge of what’s right for your body.
Holding your paddle
Hold your paddle with both hands, around 40cm apart, and make sure your knuckles are in line with the blade. Hold the paddle about 30cm away from your body and make sure it is facing the right way – the smooth part of the blade facing you, and the face of the paddle in the water. Most paddles have writing on them so if the writing is the right side up, so is your paddle.
Dress for the occasion
Kayaking can be enjoyed all year round, just be sure to dress comfortably and for the weather. Waterproof gear is always a good idea, and be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen in the summer.
Play it safe
All water sports can be dangerous but a little common sense will keep things safe:
- Wear a life jacket even if you’re a strong swimmer. If you should go overboard it’ll help you keep afloat and maintain your body temperature in cold water.
- Never exceed the kayak’s weight restrictions, you’ll risk rolling it.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Paddling is thirsty work, always make sure you have a sufficient water supply.
- Tell someone where you’re going and what time to expect you back. Should something go wrong, they can raise the alarm.
- If you’re new to kayaking steer clear of surf zones and rivers with strong currents. Waters can be rough and difficult to navigate in these areas - you’ll want to have professional classes before tackling such conditions.
From hidden inlets to picturesque lake and rivers, Australia’s brimming with places to explore by kayak – what are you waiting for?