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

how many calories does kayaking burn
Written by Joe

Is it worth it to go kayaking if you’re trying to loose weight? How many calories does kayaking actually burn? It’s a surprisingly good workout!

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 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.

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

Weight loss

Kayaking helps 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 burning calories. The further you kayak and the more you practice, the more calories you burn. Hence, the more weight you lose.

It helps expand 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 drove a cardio workout. Buildingthe quantity of vessels in these muscle areas is one of the most significant advantages of kayaking.

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.

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.

Good source of vitamin D

Spending time outdoors comes with a great benefit – 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, they 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.

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 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 or 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 still a great workout with each row.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Anything that makes it hard 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 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.

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