How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn?

You can’t always find time for an hour-long session in the gym. And even when you can, do you really want to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon inside?

It seems like a waste of a perfect afternoon – especially when there’s such a thing as kayaking.

And before you get to say anything, yes, it counts as exercise. And yes, it can help you meet – and quite possibly, exceed – your fitness goals.

How many calories does kayaking burn, you ask?

Keep reading for a detailed take on how kayaking can help you shed some pounds!

Back To Basics: What Is A Calorie?

What Is A Calorie

We take them in every day, we burn them – even when we’re just lounging on the couch – and sometimes, we go through the effort to count and cut them.

But what are calories, though?

A calorie is a unit of energy. Yes, the answer is that simple – and at the same time, it’s not. The more accurate, scientific definition of a calorie would be:

The amount of energy that’s required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

Everything that goes on in the body, at the cellular level, requires energy to sustain life and function at an optimal level. And we get that energy from the food we eat – which, as you know already, comes in the form of calories.

So, nutrition-wise, calories refer to the energy we get from food, the nutrients they provide, and, when it comes to burning them, the physical activity and the way our bodies use that energy on a day-to-day basis.

But to make matters a tad bit more confusing, when we’re talking about nutrition, we’re referring to kilocalories – dietary or nutritional calories comprising 1000 of these “small“ calories.

What Affects How Many Calories Burned Kayaking?

How Many Calories Burned Kayaking

Since you’re here, trying to figure out how many calories you can burn kayaking, I’ll take a wild guess and say you’re interested in losing those quarantine pounds.

Well, here’s your first lesson in weight loss:

You’ll have to burn more calories than they take in and create a calorie deficit that’s big enough to ensure steady, pound-per-week weight loss.

I’ll get to that later. The only reason why I’m mentioning it now is that you can’t tell if you’re in a calorie deficit unless you know how many calories you burn daily – or during exercise.

And that is a lot trickier than it seems. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to talk exact numbers – they depend on an infinite number of factors. Some are out of your control and come down to what I like to call the “genetics lottery.” Others aren’t, though.

Here are some of those factors that will affect how many calories you burn kayaking:

  • Age – The older the paddler gets, the fewer calories their body burns. That’s because, as you age, your body composition changes, and you start losing muscle mass.
  • Sex – Males and females burn calories at different rates. Men burn more calories, even at rest. Why? They tend to have less body fat – and more muscle mass – than women.
  • Weight – The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn. In essence, an overweight person will burn more per session than a kayaker of average weight.
  • Body Composition – Remember what I said about why men burn more calories than women? That’s body composition at play right there. Bodies with more lean muscle mass are more efficient at burning calories.
  • Exercise Intensity – The more intense the activity and the higher your heart rate, the more calories you burn. There’s a pretty big difference between chilling in your ‘yak and putting serious effort into paddling.
  • Exercise Duration – Now, this one is a matter of simple math. The longer you do it, the more calories you’ll burn. That’s as true for kayaking as it is for any other form of exercise.

Is Kayaking A Good Form Of Exercise?

Unrecognisable man wearing life vest kayaking

The fact that you’re even asking something like that tells me one of the following is true:

You’ve never gone kayaking before. Or, you have – but it mainly consisted of you sitting in the kayak and floating lazily down a river.

Either way, you didn’t really go kayaking. If you did, you’d know that it gives the entire body one heck of a workout.

Kayaking, done right, can be felt in nearly every large muscle group, head to toe – not just your arms, as many wrongly assume.

When it comes to the body muscles that kayaking works, prepare to be amazed:

  • Back muscles, including your lats, rhomboid muscles, and trapezius muscles
  • Shoulder muscles, primarily the deltoids
  • Biceps and triceps
  • Forearm muscles
  • Chest muscles, or pectorals
  • Core muscles, primarily abdominals, and obliques
  • Leg muscles and glutes

If you’d like to learn about the specific muscle groups that kayaking targets, check out this detailed guide.

But beyond just being a fantastic low-impact workout, kayaking offers additional mind-and-body benefits that deserve mention, too.

Seriously, here are a few other reasons to take up kayaking – besides burning calories, that is:

  • It contributes to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • It’s highly adaptable and inclusive; pretty much everyone can find a way to enjoy kayaking.
  • It’s an excellent way to combat vitamin D deficiency; all it takes is 15 to 20 minutes out in the sun, and your body does the rest.
  • It makes for an effective stress-management method, helping you clear your mind and enter a stress-free, almost meditative state while you’re on the water.
  • It triggers the release of natural mood-enhancing chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin- which can have a positive mental health benefits
  • It makes a difference in your confidence and how you perceive yourself – and what you are capable of achieving.
  • It’s a chance to meet lots of like-minded, water-loving individuals. Join a local paddling club, and you’ll make some life-long friends.
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Does Kayaking Count As Cardio?

When you think “cardio,” you think jogging and treadmills – but sitting in a tiny plastic kayak? That probably doesn’t come to mind as a form of exercise that gets your heart pumping, huh?

That’s where you’re wrong.

Propelling a vessel through water is hard work – and paddling is, in fact, a repetitive motion that engages the entire body, not just the arms, as many wrongly assume. Your back, abs, legs and glutes, chest and shoulder muscles are all getting a workout – and a good one, for that matter.

And the most important muscle in your body – the heart – does, too.

Grab your paddle and go kayak a mile at a faster pace; you’ll see that there’s a heart-pumping side to kayaking when you pick up the pace.

If that’s not reason enough to take up kayaking as a form of low-impact cardio, consider this:

You’ll be working out in nature instead of running on a treadmill and staring at the wall in front of you. And no two sessions will ever be the same.

Can Kayaking Help You Lose Weight?

There are two things you should keep an eye on if you’re trying to lose weight – exercise, and diet. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Otherwise, obesity wouldn’t be a global epidemic.

The idea behind upping your exercise routine and going on a diet, preferably at the same time, is creating a calorie deficit.

It’s about burning more calories than you need to maintain your body weight.

On that note, how’s your math?

I’m asking because tracking calories in and calories out to ensure that you’re in a calorie deficit takes some calculations.

First, you should figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and, based on the activity levels, the Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Once you have that figured out, you need to subtract roughly 500 calories from your daily calorie needs to ensure that you’re in a deficit on a daily – and, ultimately, weekly – basis.

The good news is that you’ll have apps that can help you keep track of these things. And the bad news? You’ll have to find a way to create a weekly 3500-calorie deficit to lose one – yes, one – pound of fat.

And that brings me back to the initial point:

Cutting calories from your diet is great, and all, but most people find it a bit hard to maintain that deficit for long. That’s where exercise comes in; the more you exercise, the easier it becomes to create and sustain that deficit.

How Many Calories Can You Burn Kayaking?

Hand with marker writing the words - How many Calories

Every time you dip your paddle, you employ large groups of muscle throughout your body to complete that stroke and propel your kayak forward. Even the simple act of maintaining balance in a kayak will engage your muscles – let alone the act of paddling.

So, in that sense, there’s no doubt that kayaking burns calories.

But when it comes to “how many,” the answer isn’t straightforward, simply because it depends on a variety of factors. I mean, sure, I could give you some rough estimates, based on the previous research:

The American Council on Exercise conducted a study suggesting that an average 125-pound paddler will burn approximately 283 calories per hour spent kayaking.

It’s more complicated than giving you a number, though. The number depends on a wide range of factors and can vary drastically based on your weight, how much effort you’re putting into the swing of your paddle, and the distance traveled, among other things.

All these variables amount to a different result in terms of calories burned kayaking.

I’ll try to provide an overview of how many calories you can expect to burn while kayaking based on all these different factors, starting with the basics:

Formula For Calculating Calories Burned Kayaking Per Minute

The formula that can give you an estimate of how many calories you burn kayaking per minute looks like this:

Calories per Min = (MET x Bodyweight (Kg) x 3.5) / 200

You’ll have to do some math – but first, let’s go over the variables found in this equation.

What is MET?

The Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) can be defined as the objective measure of the ratio of the work metabolic rate – the rate at which a person will expend energy while performing a physical activity, relative to the person’s mass – to the resting metabolic rate.

Here’s the energy cost of on-the-water activities, like kayaking, based on intensity:

Physical IntensityMetabolic Equivalent of Task (MET)
Light Effort (2.0 mph)2.8
Moderate Effort (4.0 mph)5.8
Vigorous Effort (>6 mph)12.5

Average Weight In The USA

According to CDC’s data, the average weight measured in US adults, male and female, aged 20 and over is:

  • Male – 199.8 pounds (90.8 kilograms)
  • Female – 170.8 pounds (77.4 kilograms)

Granted, this probably won’t give you much insight into how much you’d burn kayaking – unless your current weight is within average values stated above, that is.

But if you’re interested to see how many calories kayaking burns per minute on average, here’s what you’d get by using these numbers in the equation:

  • The average 90.8-kilogram adult male, kayaking at light effort, will burn (2.8 x 90.8 kg x 3.5) / 200 = 4.5 calories per minute
  • The average 77.4-kilogram adult female, kayaking at light effort will burn (2.8 x 77.4 kg x 3.5) / 200 = 3.7 calories per minute

How Many Calories Burned In One Hour Of Kayaking?

If you weren’t sure why I insisted on talking about calories burned per minute so much, this next section would provide some clarification. It’s finally time to see how many calories you can burn while kayaking for an hour – and the equation will be as simple as:

Calories per Hour = Calories per Minute x 60

And there you have it! You know exactly how much you’ll burn per hour, based on different factors – including your weight, gender, and effort, as indicated by MET.

Using the examples above, you can expect to burn:

Pace Per Hour
Light EffortModerate EffortVigorous Effort

So, to sum it up:

  • The average 90.8-kilogram adult male can burn between 269 and 1192 calories per hour of kayaking, depending on the effort.
  • The average 77.4-kilogram adult female can burn between 227 and 1101 calories per hour of kayaking, depending on the effort.

How Many Calories Are Burned Kayaking Per Mile?

The consensus is that, in ideal conditions, you need roughly 20 to 30 minutes to kayak a mile. Of course, things are rarely perfect. Many different factors will affect your speed on the water – including weather and water conditions, type of kayak, and your ability and expertise.

But for the sake of this whole argument, we’ll stick to average values:

  • Slow pace – 30 minutes per mile
  • Moderate pace – 20 minutes per mile
  • Fast pace – 10 minutes per mile

And since we’ve already established how many calories kayaking burns per minute, it’s easy to calculate how much you’ll burn per mile, too:

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Pace Per Mile
Slow PaceModerate PaceFast Pace

So, per mile, paddlers can burn:

  • The average 90.8-kilogram adult male can burn between 133 and 198 calories per mile while kayaking, depending on the effort.
  • The average 77.4-kilogram adult female can burn between 114 and 170 calories per mile while kayaking, depending on the effort.

Calories Burned Kayaking Compared To Other Activities

which exercise workouts burns the most calories

The table below will provide some rough estimates of how many calories kayaking burns per hour – and, more importantly, how it compares to other popular forms of exercise.

Again, these are general estimates. The number of calories you’d burn over one hour can vary based on weight and body composition and the intensity of a given activity.

Calories Burned Per One Hour
Activity160lb (72kg)200lb (90kg)240lb (108kg)
Aerobics (High-Intensity)533664796
Aerobics (Low-Impact)365455545
Cycling (<10mph)292364436

Oh, and one more thing:

Based on the values provided above, you can see that certain activities burn more calories than kayaking. But don’t assume that makes them more efficient.

You’ll generally find it easier to paddle for longer periods than run or perform extended HIIT sessions. And that means you’ll likely burn more calories at the end of the day, too.

Which Burns More Calories Kayaking Or Paddle Boarding?

But what is the difference between these two activities?

Both are paddle sports; but there is an important distinction that affects calorie burning: Paddle boarding relies on arm and core movement only, whereas kayaking requires the balance of muscles in your entire body, from head-to-toe – all working together as a team!

However, both sports are great for weight loss – but if you want to lose weight faster, then you should opt for kayaking.

How To Burn More Calories Kayaking: Tips For Feeling The Burn

an active kayaker on the rough water

Now that you know how many calories you can expect to burn, you might be interested to see what you can do to increase the calories burned per session.

Don’t worry; I have you covered.

Here are some tips on how to burn even more calories when you hit the water!

Use Proper Technique

A proper paddling technique is your friend – and I don’t mean only in terms of avoiding injury, reducing fatigue, and learning how to control your ‘yak more efficiently. When you know how to paddle a kayak – the right way – you also learn how to engage the right muscle groups.

And by “right muscle groups,” I mean more than just your arms. When you start engaging your core to drive each stroke and realize that your entire body and all the large muscle groups in it are a part of a chain that propels you forward, you start to burn some serious calories.

Kayak In Challenging Waters

Battling a series of rapids burns more calories than a casual ride on a lazy river. If your goal is to burn more, you have to increase the intensity; it’s as simple as that.

There are many ways to up the intensity of your sessions – the most obvious one is picking up the pace. But there’s only so much you can do in that department at once.

So, instead, try finding a more challenging waterway to navigate. I’m not saying you should jump into class IV whitewater rapids, but if the current environment feels “too easy” and doesn’t require you to push yourself, it’s time to switch things up.

As long as it makes paddling more demanding and strenuous, it’s going to burn more calories.

11 Calorie-Burning Water Sports for the Perfect Beach Body

Summer is the best time to go outside and get active in the water. You’ll get your heart rate pumping and melt away those extra calories without even knowing it.

Physical activity in the water burns tons of calories in very little time. Whilst performing exercises in a swimming pool can become dull quite fast, there’s a far better option out there – water sports.

Shredding calories is almost effortless when surfing, swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddling. Of course, this does not mean that your muscles are not working hard while at it, but these activities are so darn fun and adrenaline-packed that you’ll completely forget that you are also exercising.

Have you ever wondered just how much you have to surf, paddle or swim to burn off those margaritas? We have the answers!

Note: The number of calories you burn during one hour of physical activity depends on your weight. Below, we will give you the average numbers for both a 130-lbs (59 kg) and a 175-lbs (80 kg) person. If you weigh more, you will burn more calories. If you weigh less, you will burn fewer calories.

1. Surfing – up to 250 calories per hour

As demanding as it may look, wave surfing does not burn as many calories as one would expect. However, a wave riding session will give you a full-body workout and work wonders on your physique.

Paddling to catch a wave engages your shoulders and back muscles. Popping up on the surfboard and the actual riding will hit your core and leg muscles (hamstrings, quads, glutes).

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 180 calories surfing for one hour. A 175-lbs person will burn 240 calories per hour.
  • More experienced surfers burn a whole lot more while performing their neat tricks and when charging big waves.

2. Kitesurfing – up to 1,000 calories per hour

Depending on the wind and water conditions, kitesurfing can be a very intense workout. It tones the upper body, working the arms, core muscles, and lower back. It also strengthens the leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and calves).

  • In wind speeds of 12-15 knots, a 130-lbs person will burn around 600 calories in one hour of kitesurfing. A 175-lbs person can burn around 1,000 calories per hour. Women will burn slightly more calories kitesurfing.
  • The stronger the wind and the choppier the water, the more calories you will burn.

3. Windsurfing – up to 1,000 calories per hour

Windsurfing engages the muscles of the upper legs and hips (gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps), as well as the muscles of the lower leg (gastrocnemius, soleus, anterior tibialis). Keeping your balance on the board means you are engaging your core (rectus abdominus, obliques, spinae erector), particularly your deep postural muscles which give you waist definition for a perfect beach body.

If you are a novice windsurfer, don’t worry. Even falling off the board burns enough calories – the effort you put into getting out of the water and back on the board engages enough muscles to keep shredding calories.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 177 calories in one hour of windsurfing. A 175-lbs person can burn 300 calories per hour. Stronger winds and currents mean more effort and, therefore, more calories burned.
  • Expert windsurfers can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour!

Not sure where to go? Find out what are the best windsurfing destinations in the world.

4. Stand-up paddleboarding – up to 1,125 calories per hour

At first glance, stand-up paddleboarding appears to be an upper-body workout. In addition to your arms, it targets the muscles of the back (erector spinae), the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) and legs (you are standing up, right?).

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 374 calories per hour of stand-up paddling at a leisurely pace. A 175-lbs person will burn 500 calories per hour.
  • At an intensive pace, the average-weight paddler can expect to burn up to 735 calories per hour.
  • SUP racing can burn up to 1,125 calories per hour.
  • SUP yoga burns anywhere between 233 and 540 calories per hour (depending on the intensity).
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Novice paddlers tend to burn fewer calories than more experienced ones, who move more vigorously.

5. Waterskiing/wakeboarding – up to 500 calories per hour

Waterskiing and wakeboarding target your back, core, abdominal and leg muscles. The effort you will put into pulling with your upper body and pushing with your lower body makes for a whole-body workout. Your legs and core will be engaged throughout the ride.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 324 calories in an hour or waterskiing or wakeboarding. A 175-lbs person will burn up to 500 calories per hour.

6. Sailing – up to 315 calories per hour

Sailing isn’t all about relaxing in a bikini, getting a cool tan and chilling on the deck with a nice glass of wine. If you are the one controlling the boat, then you will torch calories and strengthen your muscles too!

Sailing works your shoulders (rhomboids, trapezius, rotator cuff) and back muscles, arm muscles (deltoids, biceps, triceps), your chest (pectoralis) and core, as well as your legs (after all, you are walking around the deck).

  • A 130-lbs person can burn 236 calories in an hour of competitive sailing. A 175-lbs person will burn 315 calories per hour.

7. White water rafting – up to 400 calories per hour

White water rafting is a heart-pumping activity that engages your entire upper body. Paddling vigorously down the rapids strengthens your arm, shoulder and back muscles, as well as your core. Add the adrenaline rush to the whole excitement and you’ll hardly notice you’re exercising.

  • A 130-lbs person burns 270 calories per hour while white water rafting. A 175-lbs person burns 402 calories per hour.

8. Snorkeling – up to 420 calories per hour

As far as watersports are concerned, snorkeling seems to be on the low-intensity side. But when you are flutter kicking in the water, you’ll be giving your glutes a nice workout. Being the largest muscles in the body, this means you’ll be burning calories. Plenty of them!

In addition to your glutes, your hamstrings and quads will be engaged too. Plus, the longer the distance you dive the more you will use your arms to propel yourself. This translates into an extra burn.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 312 calories in one hour of snorkeling. A 175-lbs person will burn 420 calories in one hour.

9. Kayaking – up to 500 calories per hour

Paddling down a river or around a lake is a great upper-body workout that works your shoulders (deltoids), the muscles of your back (trapezius, rhomboids, dorsi) and core (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques). It helps build muscle and lose fat quite fast:

  • A 130-lbs person will burn as many as 300 calories during a one-hour leisurely kayak ride. A 175-lbs person will burn up to 400 calories per hour.
  • The number of calories burned during kayaking depends on the weather conditions, speed, and currents. Sea and ocean kayaking involve resistance against the water, and an intensive session can burn up to 500 calories per hour.

10. Swimming – up to 800 calories per hour

Swimming is one of the best full-body workouts out there – it helps build muscle-mass, optimizes cholesterol levels and burns fat. It engages your shoulders (deltoids), the muscles of your back (rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi), your core (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques), glutes, and chest. Furthermore, it has a low impact on the joints.

  • A 130-lbs person can burn 360 calories in one hour of moderate-intensity swimming. A 175-lbs person can burn 483 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn 577 calories in one hour of vigorous swimming, such as backstroke, breaststroke (when done correctly), freestyle or butterfly. A 175-lbs person will burn 777 calories per hour.
  • Swimming leisurely in a lake or ocean burns around 340 calories per hour.

11. Canoeing – up to 900 calories per hour

Kayaking isn’t the only paddling sport. In fact, canoeing burns calories even faster. The difference between kayaking and canoeing lies in the position of the paddler. In a kayak, the paddler sits on a low seat with their legs extended in front. In a canoe, the paddler either kneels on the bottom of the boat or sits on a raised seat.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 250 calories in one hour of canoeing at a relaxed pace – maximum speed of 2 mph (3.2 km/h). A 175-lbs person will burn 357 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 540 calories per hour rowing with a moderate effort at an average speed of 4-6 mph (6.5-9.5 km/h). A 175-lbs person will burn around 735 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 800 calories per hour canoeing with a vigorous effort at a speed that exceeds 6 mph (9.5 km/h). A 175-lbs person can burn up to 900 calories per hour.

Now that you know just how many calories you’re shredding while enjoying your favorite water sport, join a beginner surf camp and discover a new passion!

How many calories do you burn with Rafting?

Calories Burned Calculator

Calories Burned Calculator

Rafting burns an average of 343 calories per hour for someone who weighs 180 pounds. Calorie burn also depends on the type and intensity of your activity, as well as your body weight.

Use our Calorie Calculator below to determine how many calories you burn with Rafting or other activities.

Calories burned with Water Sports (weight: 180 lbs )

How do we calculate how many calories Rafting burns?

For the calorie burn calculation, the MET value (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) of Rafting is used.

Rafting has a MET of 4.

We multiply the MET value with your bodyweight in KGs. The result is multiplied by 0.0175 and the duration of the activity you performed in minutes.

For example:

Here’s how to calculate the calories burned during 60 minutes of Rafting:
(180 / 2.20462) * 4 * 0.0175 * 60 minutes = 343

What is MET?

MET stands for metabolic equivalent of task, we use MET value to estimate energy expenditure. The MET value is the ratio between the working metabolic rate and resting metabolic rate, which refers to the amount of energy being expended relative to the amount of time spent doing Rafting.

* There is no way for METs to accurately estimate the energy cost of physical activity in individuals when taking into account differences in weight, adiposity, age, gender, and intensity of movement, as well as environmental conditions. The result is that energy expenditures will vary from individual to individual even when the same activity is performed.

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