Any canoe tripper knows that all it takes is a half-day paddling on a remote lake or foggy river for you to subscribe to the notion that canoeing can make you feel healthier. Clarity of mind, time away from screens and a focus on the now can allow you to feel happier and more vibrant. It’s not all in your head; there are concrete reasons why canoeing makes you healthier.
Low impact exercise
Canoeing can be a great workout, but compared to sports like running and skiing, impact on the joints is low. If you have sore knees or hips and are slowing down your participation in high-impact activities, canoeing allows you to maintain fitness and enjoy being outside while still being easy on the joints. Canoeing can also be combined with other low-impact exercises on the same trip, like trail walking, yoga and swimming at the campsite.
Improved cardiovascular fitness
In basic terms, cardiovascular fitness is how well the circulatory and respiratory mechanisms in your body can give oxygen to muscles while you exercise. The better your cardiovascular health, the less effort your body expends sending oxygen to the parts of your body that need it. Regular canoeing can increase cardiovascular fitness, meaning that not only will your paddling be more efficient, but you may see benefits in other sports and activities as well. Don’t forget—portaging may not always be enjoyable, but lugging an aluminum canoe up a hill is another way to amp up cardiovascular fitness.
Although it varies based on the kind of canoeing you are doing and how frequently, the motion of pulling or pushing water with your paddle can increase strength and muscle in your arms, shoulders, core, back and chest. Challenging conditions like wind, waves and whitewater can require powerful bursts of energy and work muscles. Lifting heavy canoes onto trucks and trailers is a decent work out too!
Research shows that exercise can have a mitigating influence on stress. When that exercise is in a cedar-strip canoe on a deep lake framed by golden larch trees, we think the effect on stress could be amplified. In addition to beating stress, canoeing is an activity that is hard to do while multitasking. Going for a paddle means you can live in the moment and forget about your to-do list or meeting on Monday and focus on smooth sweep strokes and how many loons you can spot.
While it may look like it’s all in the arms, the act of taking a paddle stroke relies significantly on core strength and torso rotation. Those who frequently canoe can increase their core strength, a major health benefit. Good core strength is linked to injury prevention, decreasing back pain, improving posture and protecting the central nervous system. Oh, and your abs will look awesome too.