-By Brett Qualls, PT, DPT, OCS
Stand up paddleboard use is a growing sport among top level athletes and weekend enthusiasts alike. Many people are intimidated by the stand up paddleboard. I think that most of this stems of a deep seeded fear of making a fool of themselves in public. The boards really are quite stable and very easy to use. Even though getting up on them can be a bit tricky in the beginning, a quick instructional lessen usually gets most people up and moving on the water.
While paddleboarding itself is very fun, there are also several unique benefits offered by this type of exercise. Stand up paddleboarding is great for balance training, an alternative form of cardiovascular exercise, and an excellent functional core challenge.
People are constantly coming into the clinic and asking what type of exercise they can be doing to help with their balance. Stand up paddleboarding is an excellent exercise, including usefulness in balance training. The unstable nature of the board on the water offers the rider a unique but useful challenge to their balance. The constant work at the ankle to keep the rider atop the board (ie out of the water) gives the rider a chance to hone their balance skill and improve their overall balance.
We have 3 main balance senses: vision, inner ear (vestibular), and motion sense in ankles, hips, knees, etc (proprioception). The dynamic motion of the board on the water is a safe practice ground for fine tuning the proprioceptive sense and to improve balance reactions. Unlike other falls, losing you balance will simply result in an unintended dip into the lake.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to maintain heart health. Essentially, if running or biking are not your cup of tea, then stand up paddleboarding may be another viable option. The trick is that if you want to call it a cardio exercise, you have to keep moving. A leisurely float on the board, propelled mostly by the current, is not really going to fall under the definition of “moderate intensity”. The important piece is getting your heart rate elevated, and keeping it in that training range.
In conclusion, stand up paddleboarding can be prescribed for exercise in a similar fashion to classic cardio exercises. You can do long distance, sprints, or even interval training on the board.
Paddleboarding and paddling sports are great for the abdominal muscles, or the “core”. These muscles form a corset around your midsection and attach to your lower lumbar spine, ribs, and pelvis. As a result, these muscles are important for posture and for stabilizing your low back. The core muscles are what stabilize your upper body on your lower body. This essentially forms a connection between your hips and shoulders. Consequently, a strong core is directly linked to low back health and overall fitness.
The rotational nature of the standing paddle maneuver combined with the resistance of the water on the paddle offers a unique challenge to core strength and stability. The paddling motion would specifically target the abdominal obliques, which can be challenging to target with standard abdominal exercises.
Paddleboarding is also a great strength and endurance challenge for the muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades, hips, knees, and ankles. It is an excellent low-impact way to exercise many muscles groups at the same time.
Paddleboarding, aside from the physical benefits, is a unique way to get out and enjoy the beauty of Lake Havasu and its shorelines. It offers you a unique experience, and you can always just jump into the water if you need to cool down. Get out there and start paddling!
*Copyright Havasu Living Magazine