Boating for Fitness: How to Stay Active on the Water

For many people, a day on the water is nothing more than relaxation and fun, but it may surprise you to learn that boating is also a great way to stay in shape. Plenty of boating activities can provide excellent fitness benefits while rewarding you with the beauty of nature.

Here’s how to stay active while boating.


One of the most popular boating activities for fitness purposes is kayaking. Due to their design, kayaks require you to use your core muscles to stay upright and balanced in the boat. When shifting your weight throughout the kayak, you can also work out your legs, albeit in a more subtle way.

Of course, your arms and back will feel the burn as you propel yourself with your paddle. And if the water is choppy or there’s a current in play, you’ll be using even more strength to progress forward. Furthermore, kayaking can double as an aerobic activity when paddling for extended periods.

Paddleboarding (SUP)

A more recent phenomenon in the world of boating is stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). As its name implies, SUP involves standing atop a board and propelling yourself forward using a paddle. The board itself is reminiscent of a surfboard, and the paddle is much like what you’d use in a kayak.

Paddleboarding works your core muscles since you need to stand up on your board, and it also involves your arms, shoulders, and legs as you use the paddle. You’ll get a full-body workout worthy of any gym session, and due to its relative ease of use, SUP is accessible to people from all fitness levels. It’s better suited for calmer waters, such as a lake or a slow-moving river.


If team sports or competitive activities are more your style, then rowing is the perfect boating activity for you. Gather a crew of eight people and a rowing boat (shell,) and you’ll be ready to hit the water for a day of full-body fitness. Instead of paddles, you’ll use oars to propel your boat forward, and each person in the group will be responsible for a specific rhythm or stroke.

The great thing about rowing is that all the crew members have to work together in perfect synchronization; otherwise, you won’t go as fast or as far. Plus, the racing aspect gives you a sense of accomplishment when you beat your competitors. It also pushes you to give it your all when paddling, so you’ll get an exceptionally intense exercise session.

Remember that rowing is an Olympic sport, so it may not be suitable for people just starting their fitness journey.


Adrenaline-seekers may enjoy rafting, which is considered an extreme sport. A group of people will climb into a large inflatable raft and paddle forward as a unit in rougher waters. These boats are designed to handle the mighty waves of whitewater rapids safely, so you’ll be in for a wild ride.

While it may seem like nothing more than fun, rafting is a great way to stay active on the water and work out your entire body. You’ll use both arms and legs to paddle forward with each stroke, and when you need to adjust or correct your course quickly, those core muscles will come into play.

The heart-pumping excitement of rafting will surely burn many calories and work your cardiovascular system. Just ensure you take the necessary safety precautions before heading out, as rafting can be dangerous when done improperly. There are different classes of rapids, ranging from Class 1 to 6. Choose ones that match your skill level.


Another full-body workout activity you can enjoy on the water is wakeboarding/kiteboarding. Both of these sports involve you keeping your balance on a board as a boat or kite, respectively, pull you along. It’s often done on waves or wakes created by boats, so you can expect some serious turbulence. That will only add to the challenge of staying upright and controlling on your board.

The main muscles used for wakeboarding/kiteboarding are your quads, calves, and core since you need to stay steady as the power of nature pulls you along. However, your arms must also be strong enough to control and steer the board in the desired direction.


A classic water activity that requires plenty of balance, control, and strength is surfing. It’s a great way to stay active on the water since you constantly shift your weight for optimal balance as you ride waves. Plus, the paddling involved in getting out to where the waves are breaking and back again is an excellent cardiovascular workout.

Surfing requires you to use several muscles in your arms, shoulders, core, and legs. You’ll need the strength and coordination of your leg muscles to do tricks and stay upright on the board. Plus, those core muscles come in handy when maintaining balance while maneuvering through a wave.


Finally, let’s not forget about the quintessential water sport: swimming. Whether you’re out on a yacht or a fishing boat, you can always find time to jump in the water and swim for a few minutes. Swimming works out your entire body. It’s also an incredibly efficient exercise since you can burn calories without putting too much strain on your joints.


Water sports are an excellent way to stay active and fit. The above activities can provide many physical health benefits and mental relaxation from being out in nature. So get out on the water and start boating for fitness!

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