By: Jason Lewis
The great outdoors is a spectacular place to exercise, and hitting the water as your field of play can push the body in ways that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s in the ocean off the Southern California coast, the rivers in the Rocky Mountain region or the Great Lakes in the Midwest, water sports have several healthy benefits.
Stand-up paddleboarding has increasingly become more popular in recent years. It’s been used by Hawaiians for years as an alternative to surfing when the waves aren’t big enough. The sport started in the ocean, but it’s not only for people lucky enough to live near a beach, as many people have taken to rivers and lakes.
Paddleboarding works out the entire body, because a person has to balance themselves on a board that’s on a non-sturdy surface. Legs and arms work together, but it is the core that really gets the best workout. The core workout is so intense that Hollywood stuntmen who have to withstand a lot of punishment have incorporated paddleboarding into their exercise program.
Another benefit of paddleboarding is that it is low impact when compared to running. People who have joint pain can get a great workout without doing damage to their knees and ankles and are able to get the same health benefits as runners.
“It’s cardio in a different way, because everything is resistance with the water,” said Mariko Uyehara, who grew up surfing in Hawaii and has been paddleboarding for six years. “You have to fight the water to keep you going.”
Uyehara still surfs, but for a change of pace, she turns to paddleboarding. The same can be said for Peter Ocampo, who is a longtime surfer who also finds paddleboarding worthwhile.
“I do it to complement my surfing,” Ocampo said. “It keeps my paddling ability strong and it gives me that paddling strength.”
People use this type of training to stay in great shape, and because it is a low-impact form of running, many older people have been able to stay slim by paddleboarding instead of running.
“It’s something that you can do when you’re 14 years old, or when you’re in your 40s, or 50s. It’s a great workout, and you can get your six-pack back, even after you’re 40,” said Andrea Conrad, who has been paddling outrigger canoes for 25 years and took up paddleboarding two years ago.
Paddleboarding can be performed like surfing, but many people use it as more of an endurance exercise, spanning distances well over 20 miles. Novice paddleboarders can take to calmer waters, while more experienced people tend to navigate rougher bodies of water. Whichever type of water a person chooses, being in the great outdoors is one of the best benefits to this type of training.
“I love being in the ocean, and it is a completely different world out there,” Uyehara said. “You see dolphins, you see seals and you see wildlife. It’s one of the most incredible feelings to be out there with the dolphins. They actually look at you. They come and check you out.”
Uyehara paddleboards or surfs about five times a week during the summer months and as much as she can the rest of the year. She prefers the outdoor elements much more than being in the gym, which has a totally different culture.
“There is no judgment out there,” Uyehara said. “What you look like, what you’re doing, how big you are, or how tough you are. Everybody is just out there doing what they love to do.”
Whether you’re inland or by a coast, a large enough body of water is not that far away, and paddleboarding may be the perfect workout for you.