is stand-up paddleboarding healthy?

Health Benefits Of Stand-up Paddleboarding

Over the years stand-up paddleboarding has been gaining in popularity. If you live along the coast you can easily find a Groupon or Living Social coupon for classes and instructors lending their knowledge of how to of stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Fans of SUP claim many benefits – everything from a great strength workout to helping to build a stronger core. But is stand up paddle boarding really a decent workout? The American Council on Exercise recently launched a study to look into the health benefits of stand-up paddleboarding. This month’s workout of the month will be taking a look at stand-up paddleboarding and how good it is for your core and overall strength.

Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding Good For You?

Well, it’s certainly not bad for you, right? But just how good for it is you? The American Council on Exercise took a look at two different types of studies recently to look into the strength and core benefits of stand-up paddleboarding. Let’s dive in further.

Study 1:  Does Stand-Up Paddleboarding Strengthen Your Core?


The rectus abdominis, and external oblique are two of these major core muscles of the trunk that had their muscle activation activity measured.

  • Researches selected thirteen “healthy” volunteers – six men and seven women – between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five years old all who had previous experience with stand-up paddleboarding.
  • EMG electrodes elvaluated the rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and external oblique – all major muscles of the core while paddling on a 10.5 foot surfboard and asked to paddle for intervals of thirty seconds (insert pictures of these muscles?).
  • EMG activity of the stimulus to the three muscle groups were evaluated to determine if the muscles elicited muscle contraction beneficial to core strength development.
  • The volunteers in the study were asked to rate their exertion while paddle boarding on a scale from six to twenty with twenty being the highest level of exertion.

The Results:

The other group of core muscles that were measured were the erector spinae. These muscles help with straightening and rotating the back.

The other group of core muscles that were measured were the erector spinae. These muscles help with straightening and rotating the back.

The study found that stand-up paddleboarding offers effective enough of movements to stimulate the rectus abdominis, external oblique, and erector spinae muscles of the core to help build core strength.  The scale at which the muscle groups drew enough activity to stimulate a strong enough response from the muscle groups was an exertion rating of about thirteen.  So the big takeaway from the study is that the harder you’re paddling, the more effective of a workout/core exercise stand-up paddleboarding can be.  In other words, you don’t get any brownie points just by showing up and floating in the water.   

Study 2:  Does Stand Up Paddle Boarding Help Make You More Fit?

  • Twenty stand-up paddleboarders were divided into a novice group and an experienced group between the ages of twenty-one and fifty-one.  There were five men and five women to each group.
  • The study took place on a bay in Southern California.
  • All the participants were equipped with a chest mounted breath-by-breath metabolic monitor to assess for metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses.
  • After a three minute warm-up the volunteers were asked to completed a one hundred meter paddle multiple times with each interval being ten seconds faster than the last one.  Peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak) and heart rates were measured.
  • After fifteen minutes of rest all the subjects began a five minute steady state of exercise which was targeted for 45 percent, 60 percent, and 75 percent of their top power output measured during the interval session.  Oxygen uptake (VO2), heart rate, and power output in Watts was measured in each session.
  • Energy expenditure was calculated by oxygen uptake values.

The Results:

  • During the light pace, the leisure group failed to build a heart rate fast enough for having any significant effect for building cardiorespiratory strength.
  • The experienced participants in the study were better at achieving higher heart rates associated with having a positive a cardiorespiratory effect.
  • One theory is that the leisure group lacks sufficient technique to build up to a higher heart rate until one becomes more comfortable on the water (the novice group was also told to paddle at a self-selected leisurely pace).

Conclusion:  How Health Is Stand-up Paddleboarding?

Who cares?  One shouldn’t necessarily select an activity based solely around the purpose that the activity will offer tremendous health benefits.  Regardless of how intensely you paddle board, there are numerous other benefits of paddleboarding not studied that are sure to give your body a boost in the health category:  vitamin D, fresh air (unless of course you’re in the Los Angeles area…), strength endurance, testing your balance receptors, and getting positive endorphins from having fun!  The world is your playground.  Enjoy it in any way that you can.


1.  Green, D.  “ACE-Sponsored Research:  Can Stand-Up Paddleboarding Stand Up To Scrutiny?”  ProSource.  American Council On Exercise.  August 2016.  Web.  2 October 2016.


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