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Body and spinal benefits of Paddling

The benefits of being outdoors while exercising are many. The benefits of being on the water while exercising are even better. Apart from the physical aspects, being on the water can lower stress levels, aid relaxation and calm the mind. Add to that the allimportant Vitamin D fix from being outside and paddling makes an ideal activity. There are also benefits to your body that you may not expect. For example, paddling is especially good at strengthening and mobilising the back.


Today’s sedentary lifestyle, such as sitting at a desk all day, is not good for our bodies. Sitting puts almost double the pressure load on the intravertebral discs and other structures of the lumbar spine. According to National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) 60% of adults in the UK will have low back pain at some point in their lives, peaking between the ages of 41-50. Although there are many reasons for having low back pain, in most people the pain is a result of weak and stiff muscles. Sitting for extended periods weakens the core stabilisers, the buttock muscles and shortens the hamstrings. This in turn can cause back pain and affect mobility.


Stand Up Paddling works more than just the arms, every stroke will engage the deep abdominal muscles which support the lumbar spine. Standing on an unstable surface such as a paddleboard will give an all-body workout by strengthening both the small and large muscles of the back and will help to strengthening the muscles all over the body. The small muscles in the feet work extremely hard when on an unstable surface and this work will carry on further up the chain of the body to the calf muscles, the thigh muscles, the buttocks and the core (deep abdominal muscles), the back muscles and of course the arms and shoulders. With correct technique paddling really is a full body workout. The better your technique the less you use your arms and shoulders and the more you use the core benefitting low back stability.



Another advantage to the body is the motor control needed to balance on a board. This will enhance your joint stability and quicken your response time so if you accidentally tripped on dry land you are less likely to fall over and hurt yourself. The benefits of balance are very well documented and regularly practicing balance exercises will help to prevent falls when we are older.

The low impact nature of paddling is excellent for people with joint problems as it doesn’t compress or strain the joints, and, for all the reasons mentioned above, will strengthen them.


A few rules to bear in mind if you are a novice paddler, if you are a paddler with a joint problem or even an experienced paddler: -

⦁ Consider having a technique lesson so that you learn how to paddle efficiently and avoid injury. Even experienced paddlers will benefit from having their technique tweaked.

⦁ Remember to warm up before you paddle. The best warmup exercises are ones that mimic the activity that you are about to do. For example, a few spine rotations and side bends, a few shallow squats (these can be done when pumping your board up and will save you bending over), arm swings such as swimming front crawl, and roll downs. 5 minutes warming up should be sufficient.

⦁ Have the correct length board for your height and weight.

⦁ Use the correct length paddle. This will aid good technique and help to prevent any strain on the shoulders, wrists and elbows and also on the lumbar spine.

One last precaution. If you have a back issue and you find that carrying your board is difficult then ask a paddle pal to carry it to the water for you.

Happy paddling everyone. Lorna Dixon Retired Osteopath & Passionate Paddleboarder


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