The health benefits of exercise and spending time outdoors are well documented. However, some sporting activities like jogging, brisk walking, and dancing may result in painful knees and joints for certain people.
Does this mean that if you suffer from this pain, you have a perfect excuse to sit on the couch and binge Netflix all day? Unfortunately, this is not a good enough excuse because you can try low-impact activities like paddling and rowing and get the same health benefits you would expect from any other exercise.
The Australian health website, BetterHealth.com, lists some of the health benefits of paddling and rowing, including improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, torso and leg strength, and reduced risk of wear-and-tear on joints and tissues.
In the same vein, the American Psychology Association observes, “… exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, [and] better mood.”
This article is for you if you are looking for a fun activity that will not overstrain your body. We will focus on the physical and mental health benefits of paddling and rowing. The article ends by looking at the importance of safety and ensuring that you always have the proper paddling and rowing gear.
The Rowing and Paddling Mixup
Even though the terms are often used synonymously, paddling and rowing are two different water sports that share similarities. For instance, the sporting activities are similar in that participants sit in a narrow vessel powered by pushing and pulling a blade submerged in water.
The main difference between the two sports is that in paddling, the vessel is propelled towards the direction faced by the paddler. In rowing, the vessel is propelled in the opposite direction from that faced by most rowers. Only one person at the back faces the direction in which the vessel is moving.
Let’s dive straight into 12 of the benefits of rowing and paddling.
1. Weight Management
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “From 1999 –2000 through 2017 –March 2020, US obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 41.9%.” The same source adds, “During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.”
The numbers above indicate that there is a need for more Americans to get out there and lose those extra pounds. Paddling Magazine suggests, “If you are paddling hard and making kayaking into a good workout, you can burn upward of 400 calories per hour.”
2. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Generally, the physical health of an individual is assessed by their fitness level and ability to comfortably do activities that less-fit individuals may find strenuous such as climbing stairs or carrying heavy stuff.
According to Medical News Today, “Increasing cardiorespiratory endurance improves oxygen uptake in the lungs and heart and can help a person sustain physical activity for longer.”
The ability to sustain strenuous activities is an indication of cardiorespiratory endurance. However, this endurance doesn’t come for free; you must train your body.
If you struggle to find a fun activity to improve your cardiovascular health, why don’t you try paddling or rowing? Nonetheless, it’s vital to remember to get out of your comfort zone because the results will depend on how far you are willing to put in.
3. Improves Stamina
Healthline.com defines stamina as “…the mental and physical ability to sustain an activity for a long period.” The same source notes that stamina “isn’t a component of physical fitness, but it’s the result of becoming fitter.”
If you are involved in paddling and rowing, you become fitter. This means you will have the mental and physical ability to sustain your other exercises, resulting in a healthier you.
4. Protects Joints
If other physical exercises hurt your joints, you can embrace low-impact activities like rowing and paddling.
The low-impact nature of these activities means that they can be done by all age groups. Because they can be performed at different intensity levels, they also appeal to people recuperating from an illness or injury.
5. Prevents Conditions like Diabetes
Writing for Everydayhealth.com, Alisha Fetters cites medical doctor and professor of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism, Rasa Kazlauskaite, who says, “The long-term benefits of exercise on blood sugar and insulin health are unquestionable.”
Physical exercises, paddling and rowing can help reduce blood glucose levels. As you paddle or row, your body needs more energy to complete the activity. That energy comes from the glucose (mostly from sugar) stored in your body.
But what’s the link between glucose and diabetes? According to Medical News Today, diabetes is exacerbated by too much sugar in the body. The same source adds, “Added sugars are refined carbohydrates, and the body absorbs them quickly into the bloodstream. This can result in a blood sugar spike.”
6. Activates Vitamin D
Vitamins have important functions in the body. For instance, the National Institute on Aging notes, “Some vitamins help you resist infections and keep your nerves healthy, while others may help your body get energy from food or help your blood clot properly.”
One of the essential vitamins your body needs is vitamin D, produced when you’re exposed to sunlight. Healthline.com lists some benefits of vitamin D, including reducing the risk of certain diseases, lowering the potential for heart disease, supporting immune health, and strong bones.
As activities take place outdoors, paddling and rowing allow you some time in the sun, facilitating the production of vitamin D.
7. Improves General Mental Health
Ask anyone that has ever been involved in an activity like kayaking, and they will tell you that they feel better and lighter afterward. In terms of running, you will hear people talking about a runner’s high. But where does this feeling come from?
The Mayo Clinic has the answer: “Physical activity may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.” So, if you want more of that feeling, get your kayak and cooler box and head to the nearest waters.
8. Reduces Stress
The guide to activities you can do at one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, VictoriaFalls-Guide.net, suggests that kayaking can be perceived as meditation in that it permits you to focus solely on your movements.
The idea that activities involving nature, such as paddling and rowing, alleviate stress is supported by Luisa Rivera of Yale Environment 360, a Yale School of Environment publication. She writes, “A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress and promoting healing.”
9. Improves Self Esteem
It’s hard to imagine how improved cardiovascular health, weight management, mental health, physical appearance, and immune system could fail to boost self-esteem.
The Mayo Clinic explains why improved self-esteem is generally good for your physical and mental wellbeing:
It makes you:
- Assertive when you explain your opinions and needs.
- Confident in your decisions about your health.
- Establish honest and secure relationships, reducing the probability that you will remain in unhealthy relationships.
- Have realistic expectations and be less likely to be too hard on yourself and others.
- Become more resilient and able to better deal with stressful situations.
10. Enhances Cognitive and Mental Functions
A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concludes, “…engaging in sports … positively influences cognitive and emotional functions.”
The Western Australia Department of Local Government, Sport, and Cultural Industries also reached the same conclusion. It notes that physical activity boosts reasoning ability, concentration, behavior, and memory.
The same department says that when both adults and children participate in physical activities like paddling and rowing, blood flow to the cortex of the brain increases. This is the part of the brain associated with problem-solving and memory.
11. Leads to Better Sleep
We have already indicated that paddling and rowing can improve your general health and self-esteem and reduce stress. All these are crucial ingredients for better sleep.
The health information website WorldHealthNet.com acknowledges that physical activities like rowing help produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins. The site adds, “Endorphins help with insomnia and help you to sleep better; they act as natural relaxants and painkillers.”
12. Facilitates Healing Among Cancer Survivors
A study published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health aimed to determine if a rowing training program improves physical fitness and body composition in women survivors of breast cancer.
The study concluded that rowing training “…is capable of bringing about improvements in all aspects of physical fitness and cardiac function during stress, as well as in anthropometric parameters such as fat and lean mass.”
Safety and Proper Equipment
Like all other physical activities, paddling and rowing can be dangerous if safety precautions are not adhered to and the right equipment is not used.
When paddling or rowing, you must always wear a life jacket. It would help if you carried a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. A personal locator beacon (PLB) with GPS attached to your life jacket can make it easier to locate you in case of an emergency.
The national governing body for the sport of rowing in the US, USRowing.org, has a comprehensive safety expectations policy for designing a rowing safety program. The organization advises that individuals and organizations should have procedures for responding to emergencies.
USRowing.org also emphasizes the importance of learning how to swim if you participate in any water activities.