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Reasons to Try Canoeing and Kayaking

March 17, 2016 by HealthyFamiliesBC

Kayaking and canoeing are good ways to get exercise while enjoying the outdoors.

Not very long ago, travelling by canoes and kayaks on rivers, lakes, and oceans was commonplace. Now that transportation by motor vehicles and public transit is the norm, canoeing and kayaking are mostly leisure activities. But boy oh boy, I do like them and all of their health benefits (and fun)!

What’s the Difference between Canoes and Kayaks?

Canoes are best for rivers and lakes. Persons at the bow (front) and stern (back) both paddle using a single-bladed paddle. The person at the back of the canoe is responsible for steering, using a variety of strokes. Because of their open design, canoes have lots of cargo room for kids, dogs, and lunches!

Kayaks are great for the ocean and large lakes because they can handle big waves and wind. In tandem and solo kayaks, you sit on the hull with your legs covered by the deck. A “skirt” (optional) covers your waist and the opening to keep you dry. If you use a skirt, knowing how to exit in case you capsize is a must! To kayak, you paddle using a double-bladed paddle and steer by pushing on pedals that move a rudder (a little blade on the stern of the kayak in the water that helps steer).

Always wear a lifejacket, carry appropriate emergency gear and stay within your ability level. Check PaddleSmart for safety information.

What are the Health Benefits of Canoeing and Kayaking?

Physical Health:

  • Resistance training: Paddling is a great way to develop and maintain core and upper body strength. When paddling, you want to engage your core and arm muscles. This will allow you to make powerful strokes and you won’t tire as quickly.
  • Aerobic physical activity: Paddling at a steady pace will have you breathing faster and your heart pumping harder.

Mental Health:

  • If you ever get the chance to watch the sun set or rise from a kayak or canoe you can attest that it is a relaxing yet energizing experience. Being active in the outdoors reduces stress, improves sleep, and elevates mood!

How to Get Started

Renting or borrowing is the best way to “test the waters”. Choose a calm, warm day to take the family out or invite a friend for a paddle. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Instead of heading to the movies or the mall on spring break, try renting a canoe or kayak for some truly Canadian physical activity.

Photo credit: PictureBC

Related blogs

Unleash Your Inner Dragon This Summer

Recommended resources

Canoe Kayak Canada: Find a Club
Adventure Smart: Paddler’s Code of Honour



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