Health Benefits of Stand Up Paddleboarding

Water calms the senses during a SUP session

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Today we are going to talk about the Health Benefits of Stand Up Paddleboarding. With so many people taking up the sport we discuss why it is so good for you. Here we look at some of the many ways you can improve your health while paddling. Throughout the article we have included links for further reading.

SUP builds core strength amongst other health benefits
Stand Up Paddleboarding is a great form of exercise

Stand Up Paddleboarding as Exercise

Core Strength

Stand Up Paddleboarding is great for building core strength and stamina. As a health care practitioner I see a lot of people with forward head carriage. This is a product of modern day life. We spend the majority of our time with our spine curved forward in a ‘C’ like shape. This reduces 2 of the 3 natural curves of our back. We have a curve each for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spines. Think about how many activities you do on a daily basis which require you to look downwards. Driving a vehicle, using laptops, phones and tablets, and sitting on the couch with our feet up are common examples of this. In any of these our natural predisposition is to slump forward. This causes us to disengage our core muscles which creates a cycle of inactive core = slumping = weaker core.

Muscle and Bone Strength

Stand Up Paddleboarding uses muscles that some of us don’t tend to use on a daily or even weekly basis. As the saying goes if you don’t use it you lose it. Our muscles are either in a state of growth or decline, there is no in between. We need to stress muscles in order for them to get stronger. Strength training is also an important health benefit for bone strength. There is a reaction within the skeletal system called the piezoelectric effect. This effect is the result of mechanical stress on the bones. As a response the bone building cells of the body become activated. Fore more information on this read this article.

While stand up paddleboarding is a whole body workout, paddling focuses on certain muscles. These are the deltoids, traps, pectoralis major, latissmus dorsi, supraspinatus, and of course your abdominal/core muscles as mentioned above.

Balance

Proprioception is our brains ability to recognise where our body is in space. This includes a global perception of our body as a single entity and also each of the parts. Joints that get a great workout with SUP are our ankles. Just think about how many adjustments our ankles make to keep us upright when we are floating on choppy water. It is this ability of our body to adjust accordingly which we call proprioception. Now think about your everyday life. Most likely you have a flat floor in your home and in your workspace, for the most part when you are outside you probably walk along fairly flat paths. If this is the case your body is having a somewhat limited proprioceptive input than what we are designed for. In contrast think about activities such as hiking and how much of a workout your ankles get. Here is some more information in the role of the ankle in proprioception.

Activities such as SUP have the added benefit of reducing our stress
The ocean has a calming effect on our senses

The Benefits of Getting outside

Fresh Air

Being outside is of great benefit to our health – this isn ‘t news to anyone. What is less known is just how unhealthy our inside environments can be. As health and safety standards increase we are exposed to more chemicals in our home. Off gassing occurs from flame retardants in our furniture and furnishings and from items such as flooring and paint to name a few. This is especially an issue if you live or work in newly renovated or constructed homes and offices. Check out this website for more information on what causes this in your environment.

Connect with nature

Connecting with nature is something that humans have naturally done since the beginning of time. Stand Up Paddleboarding is an excellent way to experience health benefits from this connection. It is only recently that our living environments have become so different from the our natural surroundings. We are seeing a resurgence in popularity of mindful engagement with the natural enviroment. One of these beneficial health activities is Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing is a traditional Japanese technique of observing nature while focusing on breathing. Here in Scotland we have a wealth of natural environments we can immerse ourselves in while experiencing the health benefits of Stand Up Paddleboarding. Check out our posts on the many beautiful locations around Loch Lomond for inspiration. Even better still, you can do it with your dog!


Healing properties of water

A fascinating account of just how powerful water is as a healing medium is in the work of New York Times best selling author Dr Masaru Emoto. While his work has been both acclaimed and criticised there is no denying the effect that water has had on our well being. We only need to look at the prevalence of mineral spas throughout the world to see the connection humanity has made between health and water. In many of the world religions water is blessed for spiritual and healing purposes. Even the biggest sceptic amongst us will admit that visiting natural aquatic environs such as the ocean and lakes/lochs has a calming affect on our senses.

Stand Up Paddleboarding in the Mediterranean
The Health Benefits of a Stand Up Paddleboarding holiday in idyllic Korcula, Croatia are immediately obvious to the observer

Stand Up Paddleboarding and Mindfulness

Decrease Stress

Focusing on exercise is well known for its ability to decrease our stress. Our modern day lives tend to trigger part of our nervous system known as the sympathetic nervous system. The Sympathetic Nervous System is responsible for our flight or fight response. When we are in flight or fight all of our resources are taken away from nourishing activities within the body. This prepares us for action. In flight or fight our resources are focused on mobilising the body. Our heart rate increases, our pupils dilate, and our energy goes to the arms and legs for motion. Our resources are also directed away from actions such as digestion, healthy weight management, immune function and reproduction. When the majority of us live our lives in flight or fight it becomes clear why so many have major health issues these days.

As such we need to find exercise which doesn’t overly stress the body so as to not reinforce the flight or fight response. Stand up Paddleboarding is of benefit to our health when done at a relaxed to moderate pace. An even more mindful way of reducing our flight or fight response is by practicing some SUP yoga.

Focus

When learning a new skill we need to focus on everything that our body is doing. We are in the phase known as ‘Conscious Incompetent’. This is when we know that we consciously need to pay attention. This in and of itself is a form of meditation. In this state your brain is no longer engaged in the ceaseless chatter known as ‘Monkey Mind’. We stop worrying about the past and future and focus on the present.

Neuroplasticity

Often we hear the age old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This comes from the belief that once we reach a certain age the brain stops being able to rewire. There is a lot of ongoing research on this topic and science is proving that the brain is indeed able to continue to grow, develop and make new neural connections. One paper explores how learning a new skill (in this case a dance routine) increased grey matter in a group of 63-80 year olds. A great resource and more interesting read on this area of research is the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Normal Doidge


FIND BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO SUP LEARN MORE ABOUT EQUIPMENT WATCH THE LATEST SUP ADVENTURE VIDEO

Please note this article is obviously not intended as a substitute for proper health care treatment. Nor is it intended to be interpreted as scientific fact. If however we widen our approach to that of evidence based practice – that being the integration of the three legged approach of clinical (experiential) expertise, and patient (paddlers) values, preferences, and characteristics as well as research evidence we see that experience forms a valuable part of this triad.

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