Is Paddleboarding a Good Workout?

is paddleboarding a good workout

Paddleboarding, sometimes spelled paddle boarding, is probably one of the most unique and rewarding recreational activities to try. It combines the thrill of surfing with the upper-body workout of swimming. 

Paddleboards are easy to find, with plenty of rental shops around the beaches in many countries. They can be rented for a few hours or days at a time, depending on your needs.

But is paddleboarding a good workout? In this article I will address this question and how stand up paddleboarding compares to traditional swimming and surfing.

So is Paddleboarding a Good Workout?

Yes, stand up paddleboarding is an excellent workout. When you're stand up paddleboarding, you're constantly shifting your body to balance yourself. This can help build core strength as well as your arms, back, and legs.

You're essentially using your entire body as one unit, working on symmetry and flexibility. Your body will be engaging all the muscles in your body simultaneously. This can improve your balance and coordination while you enjoy the calm and quiet of the water. It's a great way to relax and feel the sunlight and breeze on your face while you work out.

You also have to balance on top of the board while moving along with the waves. You'll burn more than 300 calories per hour when paddling! That's about half what it takes to swim laps.

Stand Up Paddleboarding is a Sport

You might find that you enjoy paddleboarding so much that you decide to take part in competitions. There are many types of races including sprints, marathon distances, relay races, etc. These events vary depending on where you live.

Check online resources such as SUP Racer for information regarding local race opportunities.

sup racing
1/19/2019 – France Lake Annecy GlaGla Race 2019. SUP racers are participating in an event.

Is Paddleboarding Better than Swimming and Surfing?

So yes, stand up paddleboarding provides a fantastic workout. However, it isn't quite as effective as swimming. For example, swimmers burn approximately 500 calories per hour whereas paddleboarders only manage 300 calories per hour. Paddling through some light winds could certainly up the calories burnt, however.

The reason why paddleboarding burns fewer calories is that there's less resistance from the water. You're gliding on top rather than pushing your body through it. So if you want to get into shape quickly, then paddleboarding may not be the better choice compared to swimming.

Paddleboarding does however involve more muscles than surfing. Particularly the abdominal muscles, arms, shoulders, and back as paddleboarders are providing their movement using their own power whereas surfers are literally just riding a wave. In addition, surfers can spend quite a bit of time sitting on their boards waiting to catch a big wave.

Leg muscles receive about the same amount of work between the two activities.

Does Stand Up Paddleboarding Beat Other Forms of Exercise?

Here are a few reasons why paddleboarding beats other types of workouts:

  1. Paddlers enjoy outdoor activity. You can go anywhere there is open water.
  2. It’s a low-impact workout. Paddleboards are easy on the joints because you're not using weights like in traditional cardio training. The board itself is light enough, so it doesn't put much pressure on your knees, hips, ankles, etc., which means less joint pain.
  3. According to SUP enthusiasts, there's no better way to get a good calorie burn than a paddle out into open water. With this fun activity, you use different muscle groups from walking/running—so you work more muscles while also getting an excellent cardiovascular workout.

4. You can combine fishing with working out. Now that's a unique idea/excuse for you anglers out there!

sup fishing

What is a Better Workout — Stand Up Paddleboarding or Cycling?

Paddleboarding and cycling are each a great cardiovascular exercise for an entirely different set of reasons. Both can be very good for you if done correctly. But they aren't necessarily interchangeable. Here are a couple key differences between them:

  • If you've never done it before, paddleboarding requires learning a new skill and practice. If you want to do it right, then you need to learn how to properly balance yourself on the board. Plus, you'll need to learn how to steer through choppy waters without capsizing.
  • You're more likely to achieve a better strong core workout with paddleboarding 
  • On the flip side, cycling is easier to pick up and learn. Since most of us learned how to ride a bike when we were kids, there really isn't a new skill set to learn.



  1. Cycling is one of the most efficient forms of human-powered travel
  2. Cycling can be done even in the absence of water (obviously)
  3. You can bike to/from work
  4. You won't find a $100 paddleboard at Wally World

Stand Up Paddleboarding:

  1. It is a full body workout
  2. It's suitable for a variety of body sizes
  3. When cycling, it can be comparatively more difficult to get your heart rate up due to the efficiency of the bike
  4. It is relatively low impact, so it is great for people with joint issues etc.
  5. Paddling at moderate pace can be quite relaxing — you get to be on the water, enjoying the scenery
  6. Because of this, paddleboarding is a favorite activity for those who want to combine leisure with fitness
  7. You can always add swimming to your “workout” since you're already near water
  8. Cooling off after an intense workout is easy

I don't think there is a “better” workout here, so long as you're enjoying what you're doing. It's all about finding a physical activity that provides health benefits and that you enjoy doing. This will improve your mental health as well.

SUP Yoga

sup yoga

Combining yoga with paddleboarding has become increasingly popular over the past few years. You can easily incorporate some simple poses into your stand up paddleboarding routine.

For example, try standing forward bends during your paddles. Or maybe take advantage of the fact that you have two hands free by practicing arm balances such as tree pose.

Paddleboarding Tips for Beginners

Rent a stand-up paddleboard before you buy – SUP boards come in various sizes, shapes, and materials. Beginners often prefer shorter boards. Longer models may feel awkward when learning.

Paddle short distances at first — Before trying longer distances, beginners should focus on mastering basic skills such as standing upright, turning, and moving forward.  

Practice in shallow water – Start practicing near shore before trying it in open waters. Each time you go out, try going farther away from land.

Don't forget about safety gear – Always make sure you bring safety gear, such as a life jacket, along with you whenever you venture out on the water.

Frequently Asked Questions


The best way to improve your health is to exercise regularly. A paddle a day keeps the doctor away? Well, if it doesn't, that sure sounds to me like a good enough excuse to get on the water as often as possible.

So if you have access to a river or body of water where you live then go ahead and try stand up paddleboarding today.

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