is stand up paddleboarding a good workout
is stand up paddleboarding a good workout

Looking for an enjoyable and effective way to stay fit? Look no further than stand-up paddleboarding! This increasingly popular watersport has gained attention for not only providing a fun experience but also serving as a fantastic workout. From strengthening your core muscles to enhancing your balance and coordination, stand-up paddleboarding offers a full-body workout that keeps you engaged and energized. So, if you’re on the lookout for a refreshing alternative to traditional gym sessions, grab a paddle and hit the water for an invigorating workout like no other!

Health Benefits of Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) offers a wide range of health benefits, making it an excellent workout option for both fitness enthusiasts and those looking to incorporate more physical activity into their lifestyle. Here are some of the key health benefits of stand-up paddleboarding:

Improves cardiovascular health

One of the main health benefits of stand-up paddleboarding is its positive impact on cardiovascular health. Paddleboarding requires continuous paddling, which raises your heart rate and improves blood circulation. Regular SUP sessions can help strengthen your heart and lungs, leading to enhanced cardiovascular endurance over time. Plus, being out on the water in a serene environment adds a calming element to your workout, reducing stress levels and contributing to overall heart health.

Strengthens core muscles

Paddleboarding is a fantastic way to strengthen your core muscles. Maintaining balance on the board requires engaging your abdominal muscles, obliques, and lower back muscles. As you paddle, your core muscles work to stabilize your body and maintain proper posture. The constant activation of these muscles during a stand-up paddleboarding session can lead to increased core strength and stability.

Builds upper body strength

When it comes to building upper body strength, stand-up paddleboarding is highly effective. The repetitive motion of paddling engages the muscles in your shoulders, arms, and chest. These muscles, including the deltoids, triceps, biceps, and pectorals, work together to propel your board through the water. Regular paddleboarding can lead to improved upper body strength, toning your arms and shoulders while providing a total body workout.

Helps with weight loss

If weight loss is your goal, stand-up paddleboarding can be a great addition to your fitness routine. Paddleboarding is a full-body exercise that burns calories and promotes fat loss. The combination of cardiovascular exercise, muscle engagement, and calorie expenditure during a paddleboarding session can contribute to gradual weight loss when combined with a well-balanced diet. Plus, engaging in a fun and enjoyable activity like paddleboarding makes it easier to stick to a regular fitness routine and achieve your weight loss goals.

Improves balance and stability

Maintaining balance on a paddleboard requires a great deal of core strength and stability. As you stand and paddle on an unstable surface, your body constantly adjusts to maintain equilibrium. This continuous activation of your muscles improves your balance and enhances overall body stability. Over time, regular paddleboarding can significantly improve your balance and coordination, making everyday activities more effortless and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

Muscles Targeted in Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding targets multiple muscle groups throughout your body, providing a comprehensive workout that engages both the upper and lower body. Here are the main muscles targeted in stand-up paddleboarding:

Core muscles

Paddleboarding primarily works your core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. Maintaining balance while standing on the board activates your core muscles, keeping your body stable and preventing you from falling off the board. The constant engagement of these muscles during a paddleboarding session helps strengthen and tone your core.

Shoulders and arms

The repetitive paddling motion on a stand-up paddleboard effectively works your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms. These muscles generate the power needed to propel the paddle through the water. As you paddle, your arms and shoulders engage in a continuous pushing and pulling motion, toning and strengthening these muscles over time.

Back muscles

Stand-up paddleboarding also engages your back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and erector spinae. These muscles are responsible for stabilizing your upper body and maintaining proper posture while paddling. The constant activation of your back muscles during a paddleboarding session helps improve posture, strengthen your back, and reduce the risk of back pain or injury.

Leg muscles

While paddleboarding may seem like primarily an upper body workout, it also engages your lower body muscles. Your leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles, work to maintain balance and provide stability on the board. The constant adjustments made by your legs to prevent the board from tipping over help strengthen and tone these muscles, resulting in improved lower body strength and stability.

Calorie Burn in Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding is not only a fun and enjoyable water sport but also an effective calorie-burning activity. The number of calories burned during a paddleboarding session depends on several factors, including your weight, intensity of paddling, and the duration of your workout.

Factors affecting calorie burn

Your body weight plays a significant role in determining the number of calories you burn during a stand-up paddleboarding session. Heavier individuals tend to burn more calories compared to lighter individuals due to the increased effort required to paddle and maintain balance.

The intensity of your paddling also influences the number of calories burned. Paddling at a faster pace or against resistance, such as wind or currents, requires more energy and therefore results in a higher calorie burn.

The duration of your paddleboarding session also affects the overall calorie expenditure. Longer workouts result in a greater number of calories burned compared to shorter sessions.

Calories burned per hour

On average, stand-up paddleboarding can burn between 350 to 500 calories per hour. However, it’s important to note that calorie burn can vary depending on individual factors. To maximize calorie burn during your paddleboarding session, try incorporating interval training, where you alternate between intense paddling bursts and active rest periods. This can further increase your heart rate and calorie expenditure.

Overall, stand-up paddleboarding offers a moderate to high-intensity workout that can help you burn significant calories while enjoying the beauty of the water and nature around you.

Comparison to Other Water Sports

Stand-up paddleboarding is a versatile water sport that can be compared to various other activities. Let’s explore how stand-up paddleboarding stacks up against kayaking, surfing, and rowing:

Stand-up paddleboarding vs. kayaking

Both stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking offer opportunities for water exploration and recreational activities. However, there are some notable differences between the two. While kayaking primarily focuses on using a double-bladed paddle to propel a small watercraft, stand-up paddleboarding involves standing on a board and using a single-bladed paddle. Stand-up paddleboarding engages more muscle groups, particularly the core muscles, due to the need for continuous balance and stability. Additionally, stand-up paddleboarding offers a more upright position, allowing for better visibility and a different perspective while on the water.

Stand-up paddleboarding vs. surfing

Stand-up paddleboarding and surfing share similarities as both involve riding waves and being out on the water. However, there are distinct differences between the two. Surfing involves riding ocean waves using a surfboard, typically in a prone or kneeling position. In contrast, stand-up paddleboarding combines elements of surfing with the use of a paddle, providing an opportunity for a full-body workout. Stand-up paddleboarding allows for greater versatility, as it can be done in both calm and choppy waters, enabling individuals to enjoy the sport even when the waves are not optimal for traditional surfing.

Stand-up paddleboarding vs. rowing

While stand-up paddleboarding and rowing involve propulsion in water, they differ in terms of equipment and muscle engagement. Rowing typically involves sitting in a rowing shell or a rowing machine, using oars to move through the water. Stand-up paddleboarding, on the other hand, requires standing on a board and paddling with a single-bladed paddle. Rowing primarily focuses on engaging the upper body muscles, particularly the arms, shoulders, and back. Stand-up paddleboarding, while also working the upper body, engages a broader range of muscles, including the core and legs, due to the need for balance and stability on the board.

Considerations for a Workout Session

Before embarking on a stand-up paddleboarding workout, it’s essential to consider a few factors to ensure a safe and effective experience. These considerations include warm-up and stretching, choosing the right paddleboard, proper technique, and safety precautions.

Warm-up and stretching

As with any physical activity, warming up your muscles before a stand-up paddleboarding session is crucial to prevent injury and optimize performance. Begin with a brief aerobic warm-up, such as jogging or riding a stationary bike, to increase your heart rate and warm up your entire body. Afterward, perform dynamic stretches that target the muscles used during paddleboarding, such as leg swings, shoulder circles, and side bends. These stretches will help improve flexibility and prepare your body for the demands of paddleboarding.

Choosing the right paddleboard

Selecting the right paddleboard is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable workout session. Consider factors such as your height, weight, skill level, and intended use of the paddleboard. There are various types of paddleboards available, including all-around boards, touring boards, and racing boards. All-around boards are a popular choice for beginners and versatile enough for various water conditions. Touring boards are designed for longer distances and offer increased stability and speed. Racing boards are narrower and faster, suitable for experienced paddleboarders looking for a competitive edge. Consulting with a knowledgeable paddleboard specialist can help you find the right board that suits your needs and goals.

Proper technique

Mastering proper paddling technique is crucial for efficiency and injury prevention during stand-up paddleboarding. Start by holding the paddle with one hand on the handle and the other hand slightly down the shaft. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. As you paddle, reach forward with the blade, submerge it fully in the water, and use your core muscles to pull the paddle backward, keeping your arms relatively straight. Engage your core and legs to maintain balance and stability on the board. Practice proper form and technique to maximize the benefits of stand-up paddleboarding and avoid unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints.

Safety precautions

Prioritizing safety is important when participating in any water activity, including stand-up paddleboarding. Here are a few safety precautions to consider:

  1. Always wear a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) or life jacket, especially when paddleboarding in open water or when you’re not a confident swimmer.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the water conditions, weather forecast, and any potential hazards or regulations specific to the area you’ll be paddleboarding.
  3. Start paddleboarding in calm and sheltered water, gradually progressing to more challenging conditions as your skills and confidence improve.
  4. Be mindful of other water users, such as boats and swimmers, and follow any navigational rules or guidelines.
  5. Stay hydrated by bringing water along with you on the paddleboard and drinking regularly to prevent dehydration, especially in warmer weather.
  6. Apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, even on cloudy days, as the reflection off the water can intensify UV exposure.
  7. Consider taking a stand-up paddleboarding lesson or joining a group activity to learn proper techniques and gain confidence in your paddleboarding skills.

By following these considerations and safety precautions, you can enhance your stand-up paddleboarding experience and make it a safe and enjoyable workout session.

Health and Fitness Tips for Stand-up Paddleboarding

To make the most of your stand-up paddleboarding sessions and promote your health and fitness goals, consider incorporating the following tips:

Start slowly and gradually increase intensity

If you’re new to stand-up paddleboarding or returning after a break, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your sessions. Begin with shorter, less challenging outings to allow your body to adapt to the demands of paddleboarding. As your strength, endurance, and skills improve, gradually increase the distance, speed, and complexity of your paddleboarding workouts. Remember to always listen to your body and make adjustments accordingly.

Hydrate adequately

Staying hydrated is essential during any physical activity, including stand-up paddleboarding. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, dehydration can still occur, particularly when paddleboarding in warm or humid conditions. Bring a water bottle or hydration pack with you on the paddleboard and make sure to drink regularly throughout your session. It’s also wise to hydrate before and after your paddleboarding workout to ensure optimal performance and recovery.

Protect your skin from the sun

Spending time on the water exposes your skin to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Protecting your skin is crucial for preventing sunburn and reducing the risk of skin damage and long-term health consequences such as skin cancer. Before heading out to paddleboard, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to all exposed areas of your skin, including your face, neck, arms, and legs. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if you’re sweating heavily or spending an extended duration in the water.

Listen to your body

Your body is the best guide when it comes to determining the intensity, duration, and frequency of your paddleboarding workouts. Pay attention to how your body feels during and after each session. If you experience any pain, discomfort, or unusual fatigue, take a break or modify your activity. Overexertion or pushing through pain can increase the risk of injury. Remember that rest and recovery are just as important as the workout itself to optimize your performance and minimize the likelihood of overuse injuries.

Pair paddleboarding with other exercises

To further enhance your overall fitness and achieve well-rounded workouts, consider complementing your stand-up paddleboarding with other forms of exercise. Strength training exercises, such as bodyweight exercises, weightlifting, or resistance band workouts, can help you build muscle and improve overall body strength. Incorporating cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, or swimming, can boost your cardiovascular endurance. Yoga or Pilates sessions can enhance flexibility, balance, and core strength, which are beneficial for paddleboarding. Mixing different types of exercises can help prevent boredom, provide variety, and target different muscle groups for a more comprehensive fitness regimen.

By following these health and fitness tips, you can optimize your stand-up paddleboarding experience and reap the maximum benefits for your physical and mental well-being.

Variations and Challenges in Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding offers a range of variations and challenges that can add excitement and diversity to your paddleboarding routine. Here are a few ideas for exploring different aspects of stand-up paddleboarding:

Paddleboarding in different conditions

While paddleboarding on calm waters can be a peaceful experience, trying out different conditions can add an extra element of challenge and adventure to your workouts. Challenge yourself by paddleboarding in windy conditions, navigating through small waves, or exploring ocean or river currents. These variations in water conditions require more strength, balance, and adaptability, providing a unique physical and mental challenge.

Paddleboarding with added weights

To intensify your stand-up paddleboarding workout, consider incorporating weights. You can wear a weighted vest or attach ankle weights to engage your muscles more during paddling. The added resistance forces your muscles to work harder, resulting in increased strength and calorie burn. Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your strength and fitness levels improve. However, it is essential to maintain proper form and technique while paddleboarding with added weights to prevent strain or injury.

Race paddleboarding

For those seeking a competitive edge and the thrill of racing, participating in paddleboarding races can be a fantastic challenge. Paddleboarding races take place in various formats, including long-distance races, sprint races, and even obstacle course races. Engaging in these events allows you to push your limits, compete with other paddleboarders, and experience the excitement of a race atmosphere. Race paddleboarding provides an opportunity to test your skills, track progress, and foster a sense of accomplishment.

Exploring these variations and challenges in stand-up paddleboarding can take your workout experience to new heights and keep you motivated and engaged in your fitness journey.

Paddleboarding as a Recreational Activity

Beyond its fitness benefits, stand-up paddleboarding offers a host of recreational advantages that make it an enjoyable and enriching activity. Here’s why paddleboarding is not only a workout but also a recreational pursuit:

Combining fitness and fun

Paddleboarding provides a unique opportunity to combine exercise with fun and enjoyment. Being out on the water, surrounded by nature’s beauty, can create a tranquil and meditative experience. The rhythmic paddling motion and the sound of the water can be therapeutic and help alleviate stress. Unlike traditional workouts in a gym setting, paddleboarding allows you to engage with the outdoors and embrace the serenity of the water, enhancing your overall well-being and boosting your mood.

Exploring nature

Paddleboarding grants you the freedom to explore various bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, or even the open ocean. Discovering hidden coves, serene lagoons, or wild waterways allows you to connect with nature on a deeper level. Paddleboarding also provides the opportunity to observe wildlife, such as birds, fish, or marine mammals, in their natural habitats. Whether you’re paddling through crystal-clear waters or venturing into dense mangroves, the adventure and exploration aspects of stand-up paddleboarding make it an ideal activity for nature enthusiasts.

Social aspects

Paddleboarding can be enjoyed as a solo activity, but it also offers ample opportunities to connect with others. Joining a paddleboarding group or participating in organized events and races allows you to meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for water sports and outdoor activities. Stand-up paddleboarding also opens the door to potential social interactions with other water enthusiasts you may encounter on your excursions. Paddleboarding with friends or family members can strengthen relationships and create lasting memories while enjoying time together in a beautiful and tranquil setting.


The fitness benefits of stand-up paddleboarding make it a worthwhile workout option for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. With its ability to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen core muscles, engage various muscle groups, and enhance balance and stability, paddleboarding offers a well-rounded exercise experience. The low impact nature of the sport makes it accessible for individuals with joint issues or those who prefer a gentle workout. Additionally, the combination of physical activity, outdoor exploration, and the sense of freedom on the water contributes to improved mental well-being. So, whether you seek an intense workout or a leisurely and enjoyable activity, stand-up paddleboarding can cater to your needs. Embrace the benefits of paddleboarding and embark on a fulfilling journey of fitness and adventure on the water.

Diana Hanson
Hi there! I'm Diana Hanson, a SUP enthusiast and paddler with over ten years of experience. I have a deep love for exploring new places and trying out new things on my SUP board. Whether it's gliding across a peaceful lake, navigating a fast-moving river, or riding the exhilarating waves of the ocean, I'm always up for an adventure. As the author of the website, I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience with others. My goal is to help beginners learn the skills needed to paddle safely and confidently. I understand the challenges that novices face when starting out, and I'm dedicated to providing them with valuable tips and advice. But my passion doesn't stop there. I also strive to assist experienced paddlers in taking their skills to the next level. Through, I constantly update the site with the latest SUP gear reviews, insider tips, and expert advice. My aim is to ensure that everyone, regardless of their skill level, can get the most out of their paddling experience. I take great pride in my work, and I have been fortunate to receive recognition in the form of prizes and rewards for my contributions to the SUP community. It's an honor to be able to share my passion for this incredible sport with others, and I hope that through, I can inspire and empower fellow SUP enthusiasts to embark on their own unforgettable journeys. Join me on, and let's dive into the exciting world of SUP together!