These days it seems everyone is looking for a good way lose weight. As a kayak coach and dare I say, an advocate for the sport, it’s a bit of a no-brainer that I would tell you that kayaking is indeed a good way to lose weight.. After all, any exercise that supports physical fitness, burns calories and keeps you interested is on its surface, a good way to lose weight. But is it really? Here are some thoughts…
According to the American Council on Exercise, a 125 lb person burns about 283 calories per hour while kayaking. A 200 lb person burns a whopping 454 calories. That’s logical since the heavier you are, the more energy you expend when you exercise. However, when you compare 1 hour of walking to 1 hour of kayaking you’ll find the difference (depending on weight and chart), is around 30-50 calories. So paddle an hour, or walk an hour and 20 minutes and you’ll end up in about the same place, calorie-wise. Hiking on mixed terrain for an hour will push you nearly 150 calories higher than paddling for that hour invested. (again, the number depends on weight and other factors).
Now when I paddled around Puerto Rico, it took almost a month and we paddled almost daily with a few off days here and there. At the end of the trip I had lost about 25lbs. That’s a lot of weight to lose in a month for sure, but again we put in hours & hours of paddling. Plus the fact that I was often too tired to eat certainly contributed to the weight loss. Other paddlers on even longer expeditions have lost even more weight. Thing is, most of us simply can’t do 2 expeditions a year just for the sake of weight management.
As a coach and paddling addict I paddle a lot, but like you I have a job, a family and life to contend with. I’m lucky to get an hour or two free, 4 or 5 days a week. In that limited time I have to decide how to get the most “out there” experience. Hiking means, just jumping in the jeep, driving to the destination and I’m instantly on the trail. It takes me only a few more minutes to load my bike. Heck, I can ride my bike right out of the driveway. Paddling takes more effort. Even if I leave my kayak on the roof as I often do in summer, I still have load up gear, unload gear at the beach and get my s*^T together before I actually get on the water and begin exercising..
Once on the water you have to again remember why you’re there. To burn those calories, you’ll need to keep up a sustained speed and do some distance. Stopping to watch the loons every few minutes won’t burn calories. Paddling for exercise and paddling for pleasure are not always the same thing. You need to maintain a good speed over a set duration to really get your calorie burn reward. What’s more, the better paddler you become, the more efficient, the less energy you’ll use and the less calories you’ll burn. Drat!
Feeling a little less excited about paddling to lose weight? Well, you shouldn’t, you simply can’t expect any exercise alone to do the job of getting you back into a tight pair paddling shorts. It’s as simple as “Calories in, Calories out”.
Here’s the thing, after I go paddling for an hour, real exercise paddling and I (being around 200 lbs) burn my 454 calories, I don’t dare reward myself with a coke and a snickers bar! A 16 oz bottle of coke, which is easier to find than a can these days, is about 200 calories. A snickers bar comes in at another 273 calories. There went my hour of paddling! Don’t even think about a handful of your favorite gorp.. some of thoes can be nearly 700 calories for about 6 oz! Heck even a cup of carrots will ding you to the tune of 50 calories… that means 1 hour paddling plus a cup of carrot slices equals an hour’s leisurely walk. Now there’s a downer if I ever heard one!
Don’t lose heart though, staying fit isn’t just about losing calories. You also need to build up your muscles and stay flexible as well. Kayaking will do that for you, and you do in fact, burn calories doing it. The thing is, you need to be realistic. Weight loss means not simply exercising, but also limiting your intake; “Calories in, Calories out.” Just taking the little plastic tub out to the lake once or twice a week isn’t going to do much for weight loss. On the other hand, it may do wonders for your soul.