Kayaking Self-Help Outdoor Fitness Advice for Anyone

Written by T.G. Rand

For those who love the out of doors, sea kayaking delivers unparalleled scenery along with a successful upper body workout.

Imagine a water sport that combines spectacular outdoor adventure with good muscle toning, and you have sea kayaking, a workout you can do in any large body of water.

Unlike whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking (or flat-water kayaking as it's sometimes called) doesn't pit your fragile body against an onrush of jagged rocks. Instead, you paddle, and that movement builds the muscles of your upper body - shoulders, arms, back and even your waistline.

Sea kayaking is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the U.S., according to Sara Whitner, a marketing pro at "More people do water paddle sports than mountain biking and snowboarding combined," she says.

What's the appeal? For one thing, anyone can paddle a sea kayak on a calm surface. If you paddle quickly and strenuously, you'll get a good aerobic workout, too. What's more, you can venture to the nooks and crannies of waterways where wildlife like blue herons or sea otters abound.

Sit back and enjoy the view. Here's what you need to know to get started:

  • Sea kayaks come in two major styles: Sit-on-tops, which are ideal if you want to combine the activity with snorkeling or swimming. And cockpit kayaks - you slip your legs under the deck, fit a neoprene spray skirt over the hole to keep water out, and paddle for speed, distance, endurance - or just pleasure.
  • Sea kayaks are longer and much more stable than whitewater kayaks. In the case of ocean swells, you simply use your blade and your body weight to help balance the boat.

A good way to get into kayaking is to enroll in a weekend class. Whitner advises taking an introductory class with a teacher accredited by the American Canoe Association.

Expect to become addicted. Entry-level models start at $1,000.

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