Stand up Paddleboarding for Fitness

We have already taken a look at the many Health Benefits of Stand up Paddleboarding but today we are going to take a closer look at how SUP can help improve and maintain your fitness levels.

Fitness is many things to many people and your own version about the ideal fitness level is a uniquely personal thing.  Loosely stated ‘Fitness’ is the physical ability to perform certain tasks.  When looking at fitness goals a great place to start is to consider what you want to achieve.  For some people being able to inflate their SUP without running out of breath might be a goal, others might have a goal of completing an enduro race like the Great Glen Challenge.

What is your fitness level?

Stand Up Paddleboarding gives us the chance to increase our fitness levels in many ways.  There are four key components to fitness which are; Balance, Strength, Flexibility and Endurance.  But before we get into these I suggest you measure each of the following areas. Doing this prior to starting any sort of fitness schedule or regime helps establish a baseline.  From here you are then able to measure your progress at predetermined intervals along the way.


Stand Up Paddleboard headstand for balance and fitness
Image thanks to @danielpelaezduque

Balance is one of the first things that we think of when it comes to Stand Up Paddleboarding. When starting out with Stand Up Paddleboarding uually we wonder ‘Will I fall in?’

Starting by measuring your balance can help you build up confidence and agility. First up you will need a stopwatch which most smart phones have.

  • Take off your shoes and stand next to a table or your kitchen counter. You will need something to hold onto which is strong enough to support your weight.
  • Set the timer going and shift your weight to one foot.
  • Time how long it takes before you either need to stabilise yourself by holding onto the bench/table or lower your other foot.
  • Record the time
  • Repeat for the other foot.

If this was too easy, next you can repeat this test by standing on a cushion which is also a great exercise for building up ankle strength especially after an ankle sprain.  What I like about this exercise is that you don’t need any new fancy equipment, you can just use what you have around the house.  However there are a range of balance improving equipment if you want to up the ante!  As with each of these different tests you can time yourself with a stop watch.

The final suggestion for measuring balance is to perform Rhombergs Test which is a neurological test for balance.  A simplified version you can perform at home is the following;

  • Remove shoes and ensure that you have a meter each side of you and about 3 meters ahead of you that is clear of obstruction.
  • Place the heel of one foot touching the toes of the other in front of you
  • Repeat with opposite foot walking heel to toes counting the number of steps you can complete without losing your balance.
  • Record the number of steps you achieved with eyes open.
  • Repeat this test with your eyes closed ensuring that the space around you is clear of obstruction.
  • Record the number of steps with eyes closed.


Stand Up Paddleboard and rock climber
Image from Photo by Tower Paddle Boards on Unsplash

There are quite a few ways that you can measure your strength and you have probably come across many of them in the past.  Exercises such as the following examples can be used to measure fitness levels important when Stand Up Paddleboarding;

  • Push Ups
  • Sit Ups
  • Chin Ups
  • Burpees
  • Star Jumps

The basic idea is to see how many repetitions you can do of a certain activity within a specified time limit. All you need is a stop watch which most smart phones have these days.  Another good resource for how to perform a Strength test can be found here.


Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga flexibility
Image thanks to Photo by Daniel Frank on Unsplash

In my practice as a health care practitioner I frequently use the metric of flexibility as a non subjective measure of improvement. Luckily there is a way that you too can measure improvements in your flexibility without the need to consult a health care professional. There are a couple of devices that you can use to measure your progress. The first is a very basic instrument called a Goniometer and the second a little more advanced instrument called an Inclinometer. To find out how to Measure Flexibility with a Goniometer watch this video to Measure flexibility with an Inclinometer watch this video.  There is another test called the Sit and Reach Test which is shown in this video here.

By recording your initial readings you are able to monitor flexibility improvements over time.  Flexibility can be particularly important when going from a kneeling to standing position on your SUP and can be a good indicator of fitness for Stand Up Paddleboarding.


Stand Up Paddleboarders passing through stone archway
Image thanks to Robert Bye

One of the ways to measure endurance is to simply time your paddle session. Find a paddle course or route and record how long it takes to complete. By measuring the distance it will also give you a kilometres per hour/ miles per hour metric to record.

Another test you can do is to repeat the strength tests as mentioned above. Instead of giving yourself a time limit see how many repititions you can complete before you need to stop.

A Fitness Test which was published by the Mayo Clinic can be found here.

Why not check out our FREE 14 Day SUP Yoga Challenge and take your paddling fitness to the next level!



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