How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn? Is it worth the effort?

how many calories does kayaking burn
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It is no secret that kayaking provides great exercise. Balancing the boat engages the lower back as well as abdominal muscles, while paddling does a great job of engaging the upper body muscles. The amount of workout you will get out of kayaking depends on how slowly or quickly you go at it.

With everyone seeking to shed a few pounds, I dare say that kayaking is a great way to get it done. In addition to a great workout, kayaking provides a low-to-the-water view that immerses you in the experience.

By so doing, you get to feel in harmony with the water and wildlife as you glide through each stroke. Kayaks are a versatile watercraft that can be used in lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Types of Kayaking

This article is all about the quality of workout you can achieve by kayaking. More specifically, the calories burned while doing so.

However, there is one important distinction to make right off the bat – there are many different types of kayaking. Therefore, the type of kayaking you pursue will largely determine the level of physical activity you receive.

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
  • Comfortable For Anyone: Kayak Includes An Adjustable Inflatable Seat With Backrest; Cockpit Designed For Comfort And Space
  • Dimensions: Inflated Size 10 Feet 3 X 3 Feet X 1 Feet 8 Inch; Maximum Weight Capacity: 400 Pounds
  • Directional Stability: Removable Skeg For Directional Stability
  • Increased Visibility: In Case Of Emergency, Bright Yellow Color Helps Visibility
  • Made For Smaller Bodies Of Water: Explorer K2 Is Made For Smaller Bodies Of Water Including Lakes And Mild Rivers

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
  • Nimble, durable kayak is made of durable welded material with eye catching graphics for added safety on the lake or slow moving river
  • Cockpit is designed for comfort and maximized space, and inflatable I beam floors add stability. Removable skeg provides exceptional directional movement
  • Cargo net to store extra gear, and grab line on both ends of kayak; inflatable seat with backrest
  • Comes with 84 inch aluminum oar, repair patch and Hi output manual hand pump; Rugged vinyl construction
  • Measures 108 by 13 by 30 inches (W x H x D), with 27.2 pound weight and 220 pound maximum capacity

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Of course, the more energy you exert by kayaking, the more calories you burn. That is why white water kayaking and long-distance sea kayaking will burn more calories per hour. On the contrary, fishing in your kayak will almost certainly burn less.

Keep these distinctions in mind as you read this article. In order to get the best workout possible, you have to commit to doing the work!

Benefits of Kayaking

Kayaking can be a tranquil adventure that provides several health benefits including the following:

Weight loss

Kayaking helps to burn a significant amount of calories. It is almost impossible to immerse yourself in this activity for some time without feeling tired. Let’s face it – feeling tired means you are exerting energy, which means you are burning calories. The further you kayak and the more you practice, the more calories you burn. Hence, the more weight you lose.

Of course, weight loss is also largely dependent on other factors as well – such as diet. But with a proper routine committed to healthy choices, kayaking can be a great activity in your weight loss journey.

It helps grow stamina

This applies in particular if you kayak all the time. The activity helps condition your body. You get to exercise your heart and lungs, thus improving your stamina.

Kayaking is also an abdominal area driven cardio workout. Buildingstrength in these muscle areas is one of the most significant advantages of kayaking, and will lead to greater and greater stamina.

It helps reduce stress

Watching the kayak move through the water, watching the sky and the colors of the water change as time goes by is pretty relaxing. Done twice or thrice every week, kayaking makes you feel so much better as you get to escape the worries of your daily life for a while and sometimes think about things from a new perspective.

It is also a proven fact that exertion of energy reduces stress as well. Regular exercise can be your key to leaving the stresses of your daily life behind.

Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air-Pump, Grey/Blue (68306EP)
  • The Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is sporty and fun with a streamlined design for easy paddling
  • The bright green color and sporty graphics make the kayak highly visible in the water
  • Two 86 inch aluminum paddles and an Intex high output pump for easy inflation and deflation
  • Made of company's rugged, super tough vinyl that's puncture and UV damage resistant for long term durability
  • Measures 30 by 15 by 138 inches (W x H x D) inflated, with 400 pound maximum weight limit; includes two 86 inch aluminum oars, high capacity pump, and repair patch kit

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Mental health

According to the Harvard Health Publications, aerobic exercise is capable of improving your mood by clearing your mind from the hectic nature of your life. Consequently, this helps improve your mental health. Kayaking is one of the tools you can use to increase your level of exercise and feel better overall.

Good source of Vitamin D

Spending time outdoors comes with many great benefits – including the intake of vitamin D. According to Dr. Michael F. Holick, a professor at Boston University Medical Center; vitamin D is one of the toughest nutrients to get from foods, and more than 80% of it is synthesized from sunlight.

It strengthens the core

The core is made up of the upper and lower abdominal muscles. The control and balance part of kayaking help strengthen these muscles. The shifting andturning of the core are what helps turn the kayak, and with time, these core muscles strengthen and grow.

Leg toning

Applying pressure using your legs so that you can turn and balance the kayak serves as an isometric exercise that tightens your leg muscles. Through regular kayaking, these muscles will begin to strengthen over time.

It Is Enjoyable

We saved the simplest benefit for last. Most people enjoy kayaking as an exercise option simply because it is so easy and enjoyable. You can go at your own speed, and explore the great outdoors while you do it. The opportunity to be in nature is a bonus to any workout.

Many people struggle with exercise because they find it too difficult, too monotonous, or too boring. Kayaking can be your solution in this regard. Finding something that grows your strength and cardio, while actually being enjoyable is a pretty big bonus. It turns your workout into a habit that you will stick to, and you will enjoy the benefits even more.

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak, K2: 2-Person, Red
  • Super tough laminate PVC with polyester core: Light weight and highly resistant to damage from abrasion, impact and sunlight
  • High pressure inflation provides extra rigidity and stability, with high pressure spring loaded valves for easy inflation and fast deflation
  • Includes 2 removable skegs for deep and shallow water, 2 floor mounted footrests, 2 integrated recessed fishing rod holders, 2 adjustable bucket seats
  • Removable and adjustable mounting bracket for additional accessories, such as GPS systems, fish finders, swivel fishing rod holders etc. Includes a carry bag and repair patch
  • Storage space in bow and Stern with stainless steel d rings for tying down Dry bags and gear; Kayak total weight capacity: 400 pounds

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What muscles does kayaking work?

Kayaking provides your body with one heck of a workout. Your chest, abdomen, hands, arms, and shoulders are the main target areas of this exercise. A one-hour workout can produce more work for the above muscle groups than a single gym or weight lifting session.

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kayaking for weight loss

The back

Each stroke is a single arm row that is comparable to doing a seated cable row or single arm dumbbell row. The lats are worked to some extent with every stroke of your arm as you paddle. As one arm rows back, the other gets a good stretch and a contraction.

This provides a great back workout, and the good news is that you can go at whatever tempo you prefer – narrow or wide grip, long sets, sprints and even pull as hard as possible.

The heart and chest

The chest is also involved when kayaking. One arm counters the one that moves backward with a forward push, more or like a single arm dumbbell bench press. With each row, the pectoral muscles pull the arm in while stabilizing the shoulder. And whether you coat or sprint, your heart, lungs, and chest will receive a great workout with each row. One of the best ways to improve heart health is through cardiovascular exercise, and kayaking provides that.

The abs

As with every rotational movement, the obliques and abdomen are heavily involved, and therefore, responsible for your kayaking performance. Good luck getting through a kayaking session with your pride intact if your core muscles are weak. Kayakers love to feel the burn in their core, because they know it means they had a successful workout!

The trunk extends from the neck to the waist. It consistently works in rotation and anti-rotation movements, thus does a lot in terms of spine stabilization as well as balance.

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak Blue, 8'7" x 3'
  • 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
  • Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
  • 21-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
  • Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured

Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Guns (biceps) and grip

You get plenty of biceps workout when rowing. The triceps also contract as you kayak. The forward extension of one arm as the other moves backward and hits the biceps on one side creates more torque on the kayak paddle.

With the biceps and triceps doing their thing, your forearms and grips get a great workout out of maneuvering as well as generally handling the paddle.


There is no way you can work the back and not work the shoulders. In the case of kayaking, shoulder workouts are more involved compared to normal back workouts.

The paddle has to move up and around to the front with each row, thus transferring the weight from the lat muscles to the shoulders. This attacks the anterior, lateral and rear deltoids.

Great All-Around Workout

As you can surely tell from this section, a kayak is quite an effective full-body workout. From your arms, to your shoulders, to your back, to your legs, and more, a kayak is an effective way to feel the burn all over your body. Kayaking is a great cardio workout as well.

So if you are looking for a way to build strength and cardio simultaneously, you need not look further than adding a regular kayak to your routine. It is just a bonus that it is also so much fun.

How many calories does kayaking burn?


The number of calories burnt when kayaking depends on an infinite number of factors. Strolling to the edge of the river then hopping onto your kayak and occasionally grabbing a beer as your boat drifts along won’t help you burn any calories.

Humping your boat, on the other hand, from the Amazon headwaters to the Peru side of the Andes on the Apurimac River will burn many calories. Like any other weight loss workout, you need to put in a real effort if you want to burn a significant number of calories.

The foundational factors that affect the number of calories burnt kayaking include the length of time spent on water as well as the weight of the paddler. Additionally, the intensity with which you kayak will largely determine the rate of calories burned per hour.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average number of calories burnt by a 125-pound paddler is 283 every hour, while that of a 150-pound paddler is 340 per hour.

In comparison, the Harvard Health Publications reports that a 125-pound kayak can burn up to 150 calories within half an hour. The basic principle is that more calories get burnt if you drag more weight across the water.

In the case of a heavyweight class, 200 pounds will get you 454 calories in an hour while 175 pounds burns 397 calories in the same period.

As you can see, there are many different intensities of a kayaking workout. Don’t let this dissuade you though. Any movement is good movement, and you will find that as you kayak more and more, the higher intensity your workouts will become.

Do the numbers leave anything out?

In as much as these numbers give many of us some hope, there is one thing that many number crunchers do not consider – the type of kayak used.

At 17 feet in length and 19 pounds of weight, the carbon fiber/Kevlar Javelin ICF Olympic sprint kayak will burn fewer calories compared to the average sit-on-top kayak. This is because it is simplyeasier to paddle. It glides through the water seamlessly, and you don’t need to haul as much weight.

Other factors that can affect the rateof calories burnt include current, wind as well as speed maintained.

Basically, anything that makes it harder for you to paddle is good, because it helps burn more calories.

How does it compare to other activities?

Knowing what we know by now, that a 125-pound paddler can lose 283 calories each hour and so forth, we cannot help but wonder how these figures compare to other activities.

How does one hour of kayaking correspond to one hour of walking?

What about hiking on mixed terrain for one hour?

The difference between some calories burnt in an hour while paddling and those burnt in the same timeframe while walking is about 30-50. So whether you walk or paddle an hour, you will end up in the same place calorie-wise.

On the other hand, hiking for an hour burns 150 more calories compared to kayaking for one hour. Again, this depends on several factors, especially weight. Paddling is not as efficient at burning calories as running at 5.5 mph, but it has a better burn rate than cycling at the same speed.

snorkeling for weight loss

Skateboarding, walking, softball and snorkeling at an average of 4.5 mph are almost the same. Getting back to the water, scuba diving, water skiing and swimming are much better at burning calories than kayaking.


Kayaking is a great adventure and certainly more fun than most forms of exercise. This makes it an attractive activity to indulge now and then, and for extended periods of time.

You get a whole lot of health benefits including reduced stress levels, increased flexibility and the opportunity to build muscles.

The best thing is that you get to burn plenty of calories and lose weight while having fun. How could not love that?

It is all good as long as you put in some effort and don’t fill up the cargo bay with snacks. You do not want to keep taking one step forward and two back.

We recommend that, no matter how you choose to exercise, make it a routine. The benefits mentioned in this article are all achieved through consistent and sustained kayaking. To truly reap the rewards, the effort must be regular. Therefore, start off with a speed and intensity that you can handle.

Don’t burn yourself out all at once, have fun with it! This way, you will see that the rewards continue to filter in over time.

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