Paddle Boarding Fitness – Lose Weight on the Water

Paddle Boarding Fitness – Lose Weight on the Water

Okay, we all want to shed that extra few pounds and get a little fitter. Well certainly most of us do. We’re also about to say goodbye to what has been a rather shitty 2020 so New Years resolution time is just around the corner as well. But how does paddle boarding stack up to other sports or recreational activities fitness wise and can you really lose weight?

The short answer – it stacks up very well for a whole bunch of reasons and yes; you can definitely lose weight.

Lets take a look.

Female Doing Yoga on Board


Full Body Workout

If you are yet to try paddle boarding, you may well have just assumed that it’s simply a fun recreational hobby for those looking to play around in the water. If you think about it a little further though, paddle boarding is a sport where you are literally using all of your muscle groups from your neck down.

Working from top to bottom; proper paddling technique requires you to keep your head up looking forward which brings into play your neck muscles. It also helps elongate your spin as you will not be crouched over. The mere act of holding a Lady Paddling on Touring SUPpaddle engages your forearms but with each paddling stroke, the water in effect acts as your weight or resistance so with each deep long ‘pull’ on the paddle, you are engaging many of your upper body muscles including your chest, shoulders, biceps & triceps, upper back, and laterals. If the wind is up for instance or there is a current, this will create more resistance again so you’ll definitely be digging in on each stroke.

If you think about maintaining your stability on a floating surface as well as twisting from side to side as you alternate your paddling strokes, your core and abdominal muscles are central to keeping your balance and holding your upright position. An engaged core will also help reduce any unnecessary strain on your back and spine as well as helping you maintain your balance and stability.

A little further down; as you pivot from side to side and use your legs as mini shock absorbers to aid your balance and pull through your paddling stroke, you are bringing into play a large portion of your leg muscles working down from your hips and glutes (your butt) through to your quads and hamstrings (upper leg) and then your calf muscles. Paddle boarding is one of the few sports or activities that genuinely engages the full range of muscle groups which squarely puts it into the full body workout category.

If you are looking for a quality all-round board for recreational paddling, take a look at the Bluefin 12′ All-Rounder Cruise SUP or the Atoll 11′ iSUP both of which offer a nice stable ride that are well suited for beginner to intermediate paddlers. Well priced middle market boards so definitely worth considering.


A Calorie Burner

Exercise in general is of course a contributor to burning calories albeit the largest contributing factor still remains diet. Calories are measured as units of energy that you get from the consumption of food and beverages. Weight loss is in simple terms achieved by burning more calories than you consume. To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit although its important to understand how many calories your body needs or consumes.

To better understand where you sit, this Calorie Calculator from the Mayo Clinic will give you a quick and easy estimate as to the number of calories your body needs on a daily base if you were to maintain your current body weight. Consume less and you’ll be on your way to creating your deficit.

When it comes to exercise, paddle boarding fits nicely into the mix in terms of your ability to burn calories. As noted within the graphic below, these are mid-range estimates only and are influenced by many different factors.

There are many non-calorie related benefits (highlighted below) that also flow from paddling. When bundled up, SUPing continues to grow as a water sport of choice that caters for all comers and fitness levels.

While casual or recreational SUPing comes in as a moderate calorie burner, more competent and seasoned paddlers can well and truly turn up the dial and with this burn considerably more calories.
Man SUP Surfing


If you consider the different paddling disciples for instance:

> Surfing: 600 – 700 cal. For the more experienced and agile paddler, SUPing in the Surf is simply an extension of typical surfing with the inclusion of a paddle.

> Yoga: +/- 500 cal. In essence a combination of light recreational paddling with the inclusion of yoga. The added challenges of maintaining balance and holding positions on your board is a great extension of a typical yoga routine as well as having some genuine calorie burning benefits. SUP Yoga was the subject of one of our earlier posts which includes a couple of nice specialist board suggestions so well worth the read if you’re keen to know more.

> Recreational: 400 – 525 cal. Where we all start in the early days whilst we are still finding our feet. Recreational paddling will always be a brilliant way to take to the water irrespective of your experience level, and is still the most common form of paddle boarding in that it caters for all comers. The NIXY 10′6″ Newport and iROCKER Nautical are two nice options for all-round boards which is typically the style of SUP that most people would look to in terms of recreational paddling.

> Racing: 700+ cal and heavily dependent on distance. As the name implies, point-to-point paddling over a set distance in the quickest time.

> Touring: 650 – 750 cal. An extension of recreational SUPing where the rider is continuously paddling over longer distances. Calorie burn will again be heavily influenced by the time and distance paddled. The BOTE HD Aero is a great example of a board that strikes a nice balance with both all-round and touring characteristics.


Above and Beyond Fitness and Weight Loss Benefits

While the weight loss aspect may have been the initial draw card that sparked your interest on reading this article, there are many other ancillary benefits that paddle boarding offers.

Lady Doing Yoga on Paddle Board

Improves Balance – it goes without saying that trying to stand on a floating object must take a degree of skill and balance. Whilst you will definitely be going swimming more than paddling in the early days, the greater the time you spend on your board the greater your balance will become. Having better balance is good for your overall well-being as it will help prevent injuries as well as bettering your skills in your other sporting activities.

Low Impact – paddling whilst being a great way to exercise, is also a low impact water sport as it does not put excessive pressure on your joints, ligaments or tendons. You get the same cardio workout that burns calories and unlike football, tennis or running, there is little impact on your ankles, Close Up of Lady in Bikini Paddling on SUP

knees, hips and back so you will be less prone to injury.

Improves Endurance and Stamina – as you become more proficient on your board and are able to sustain longer periods paddling, your endurance and stamina will start to increase. You will notice this as it will take longer for you to tire as well as having less muscle fatigue.

Injury Rehabilitation – given its low impact nature, paddle boarding offers a number of benefits in improving your endurance whilst at the same time gently increasing your strength and muscle and joint growth and stability with minimal impact. Water sports are typically a better way to come back from injury as opposed to other more impactful or explosive sports.

Cardiovascular Health – similar to other aerobic sports (running, swimming, cross-training, aerobics…) paddling and in particular over longer distances will help reduce your risk of strokes and heart diseases.


Get Some Head Space

Even for those of us that are genuine exercise addicts, being in the right frame of mind is critical to maintaining the motivation to lead a more active and healthy life style. We all get in ruts and have our flat patches so finding a sport like paddling boarding might just be what you need to keep you on track with a view to meeting your exercise and weight loss goals.

Reduces Stress / Improves Mood – the benefits of attaching yourself to the ocean or our waterways in general is a natural way of taking a deep breath and relaxing. The psychological benefits in terms of releasing endorphins (a naturally occurring Stressed Man Holding Facechemical within the brain that helps reduce pain or act as a stimulant) are well proven via an increase in physical activity. The social aspects and serenity of the water can help lift your mood as well as decreasing feelings of depression. In fact your mental health in some respects is more important that your physical as without the former, it is very hard to achieve the latter.

Connect with Nature – akin to the benefits of stress relief, being out on the water is calming and provides a great way to experience nature from the water. Getting out in the sun albeit ensuring that you use sun protection is also a good way to take in some extra vitamin D.

Meditation – whether you bring into play a SUP yoga routine or simply go through the motions of a flowing paddling stroke, paying attention to your breathing and defocusing on the day-to-day can have an overall calming effect on your body and in essence, help you find your ‘safe space’.


While its perhaps not for everyone, paddle boarding is without doubt a great option for those looking to build on their fitness, tone up and indeed lose weight. Sticking to the same day in day out exercise regime can be monotonous and demotivating. Varying it up and taking on new challenges that are a little different to the norm will only motivate you further and help keep you on track with your weight lose goals.

The additional benefits derived from SUPing on their own arguably outweigh many other recreational and sporting activities. In conjunction with a well-balanced healthy diet, paddle boarding has a place for us all and is well worth tackling in your pursuit for a leaner and more healthy lifestyle.

We hope this article was beneficial and as always would welcome your thoughts. Please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.

Until then, stay safe and get wet.

10 thoughts on “Paddle Boarding Fitness – Lose Weight on the Water”

  1. I used to be a sup yoga instructor in the season and I enjoyed the work a lot. It’s so different if I compare it to yoga on the ground. Very challenging and joyful. I am really surprised by how many calories you can burn by paddle boarding. Didn’t know it’s that much. I loved to take my paddle board in the mornings when the sea was calm and flat. I never felt I was doing such an activity because of its so much fun. I really got some great and useful information from your post. Cheers.

    Reply
  2. I love the fact that you can get a bada** workout while exploring caves and going places you’ve never been before. I’ve been physically active throughout my entire life but paddle boarding has definitely been a great change and nice way to mix it up. I’ve been telling people that paddleboarding is a huge stress reliever, and this article just confirmed that. 🙂

    Reply
  3. An interesting comparison between the different sports and as you suggest, paddle boarding offers a lot more benefits as well. Not really about the calories for us but love getting out whenever we can.

    Reply
    • I tend to agree. I’m not a calorie counter either but SUPing does measure up quite well all things considered so another benefit yet again.

      Cheers – Jason.

      Reply
  4. Hey,

    I didn’t appreciate the weight lose benefits that you can get from paddle boarding. I’ve only done it a few times but I guess it makes sense when you think of it as you do use quite a few different muscle groups. It’s still a little challenging for me but looks like I’ll have to keep at it.

    Thank you for sharing.

    All the best,

    Tom

    Reply
  5. Hi Jason,
    Informative content. I do a lot of yoga and you’re right, the added dimension of balancing on the water makes it a lot more fun and challenging. A great workout so definitely some benefits.

    Reply

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