Does Kayaking Make You Tired? 7 Tips to Kayak For Longer

Kayaking is a popular water sport that requires both physical and mental dexterity. The repetitive motion of paddling and navigating through the water can make kayaking a physically demanding activity for some people, especially beginners.

So, the question remains: does kayaking make you tired? And can you easily overcome fatigue and improve your endurance?

Kayaking can make you tired due to the physical exertion required to paddle. To kayak without getting tired, it’s important to warm up before starting, maintain good posture while kayaking, and take breaks as needed. Building up endurance and improving fitness can also help reduce fatigue.

Keep reading to learn more about how much physical effort kayaking needs, factors that affect fatigue when kayaking, and how to kayak without getting tired.

How Much Physical Effort Does Kayaking Require?

Kayaking requires moderate physical effort, as it involves repetitive motions of the arms, shoulders, and core muscles.

The level of effort required can vary depending on the type of kayaking (e.g., recreational vs. whitewater), the speed and distance being covered, and environmental conditions such as wind and currents.

Compared to other physical activities, kayaking is considered less intense than activities like running or cycling but more physically demanding than leisurely activities such as walking or stretching.

What Are the Muscles Used in Kayaking?

Kayaking requires the use of several muscle groups, including:

  • Upper body muscles: The arms, shoulders, and back muscles are used when paddling, helping to provide power and stability.
  • Core muscles: The abs, obliques, and lower back muscles are used to maintain balance and control the kayak.
  • Leg muscles: The legs and hips are used to transfer power from the torso to the paddle, providing stability and control.
  • Grip muscles: The forearms and hands are used to grip the paddle, helping to provide additional stability and control.

Overall, kayaking is considered a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups, effectively improving cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and balance.

How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn?

The number of calories burned while kayaking can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Body weight: Heavier individuals will burn more calories than lighter individuals.
  • Intensity level: The harder you paddle, the more calories you will.
  • Duration: The longer you kayak, the more calories you will burn.

On average, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 300-400 calories per hour of kayaking at a moderate intensity level. However, this is just an estimate, and actual calorie burn can vary based on individual factors.

To get a more accurate estimate of the number of calories burned while kayaking, it is recommended to use a heart rate monitor or a wearable fitness tracker like Fitbit (which is what I use) or an apple watch which will also work just fine.

Does Kayaking Make You Tired?

a photo of a women kayak to show how does kayaking make you tired

Kayaking can tire you due to the physical exertion required to paddle and navigate the water. The repetitive motions involved in kayaking can lead to fatigue in the arms, shoulders, and core muscles.

The level of fatigue experienced can vary depending on various factors. However, as mentioned before, kayaking is generally considered a low-impact activity less intense than many other forms of exercise.

By taking breaks and properly fueling and hydrating, it is possible to reduce the level of fatigue experienced while kayaking.

Using a paddle leash can make it easier in an indirect way as it can make you work less as you feel more secure knowing you don’t have to hold such a tight grip on the paddles as they can’t get lost. You can learn more about when you should use a Kayak paddle leash here.

Factors that Affect Level of Fatigue While Kayaking

Several factors can affect the level of fatigue experienced while kayaking, including:

  • Fitness level: Individuals who are in better physical shape will generally experience less fatigue while kayaking.
  • Intensity level: The harder you paddle and the more intense the activity, the more fatigue you will experience.
  • Duration: The longer you kayak, the more fatigue you will experience.
  • Environmental conditions: Wind, currents, and waves can make kayaking more physically demanding and increase fatigue.
  • Hydration and nutrition: Proper hydration and fueling can help reduce fatigue during and after kayaking.
  • Technique: Poor technique, such as incorrect posture, can lead to muscle strain and fatigue.

You need to be mindful of these factors and make adjustments as needed to reduce the level of fatigue experienced while kayaking.

Is It Dangerous to Kayak When You’re Tired?

It is extremely dangerous to kayak when you’re tired as it will be harder to control the kayak, increasing the risk of tipping or capsizing.

Fatigue can also slow down your reaction time and affect your judgment, making it harder to respond quickly to changes in the water and increasing the risk of accidents.

To avoid the dangers of kayaking when tired, it is important to pace yourself and be mindful of your limits.

How to Kayak without Getting Tired?

Here are some tips you can follow to reduce the level of fatigue experienced while kayaking:

  • Warm-up: Before going out on the water, do some light stretching and warm-up exercises to prepare your muscles for the activity.
  • Proper technique: Make sure your posture is correct and that you’re using proper paddling techniques to avoid strain and fatigue in your muscles.
  • Take breaks: Stop periodically to stretch and rest your muscles.
  • Fuel and hydrate: Make sure to drink plenty of water and eat a balanced meal before kayaking to provide your body with energy.
  • Build your endurance: Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your kayaking sessions to build up your endurance and reduce fatigue.
  • Strengthen your muscles: Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to target the muscle groups used in kayaking and improve your overall fitness.
  • Use proper gear: Make sure to use the proper equipment and clothing to avoid discomfort and fatigue.

Exercise To Help Build Endurance and Strengthen Your Muscles for kayaking

Here are some exercises you can do to build endurance and strengthen your muscles for kayaking:

  1. Upper body strength exercises: Push-ups, pull-ups, and weight-lifting exercises for your arms, chest, and back can help you improve your upper body strength and endurance.
  2. Core strength exercises: Planks, sit-ups, and Russian twists can help you strengthen your core muscles, which are essential for maintaining good posture and stability in a kayak.
  3. Cardiovascular exercise: Aerobic activities such as running, cycling, or rowing can help you build endurance and cardiovascular fitness, which are important for long kayaking trips.
  4. Grip strength: Exercises such as grip strength training using grip strengtheners or hanging from a pull-up bar can improve your grip strength, which is essential for holding onto your paddle.
  5. Shoulder stability exercises: Exercises like shoulder rotations, shoulder presses, and shoulder blade squeeze can help improve your shoulder stability and reduce the risk of injury.

It is important to engage in a balanced exercise program that focuses on different muscle groups and gradually increase your workouts’ intensity and duration to avoid injury.


Incorporating kayaking into your regular fitness routine will provide various physical benefits and improve your overall health and well-being.

By listening to your body and following the previously mentioned tip, you can reduce the level of fatigue experienced while kayaking and enjoy this physically demanding but rewarding activity.

Kayak your way to Freedom

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