Trying new things is not always easy or comfortable for me. Stand up paddle boarding has been “cool” for the last few years, but it has taken me awhile to literally get on board! A few weeks ago I went paddle boarding for the first time, and I loved it. I was initially hesitant to go since I am not supposed to do intense or even moderate exercise at all because of my heart condition. I was worried that my heart rate might spike or that my defibrillator would shock me. Luckily, I was completely fine and had a blast.
I learned that nearly anyone can do stand up paddle boarding. The best thing about it is that the workout can be low, moderate or high intensity. The difficulty will increase on the ocean or in a busy lake and decrease on a quiet lake, like the one at Stone Mountain I went to. You choose how vigorously you paddle and how hard you work. For workout junkies who like to feel the burn all of the time, you can work up a sweat and really challenge yourself. For those want to enjoy the outdoors and get a less intense workout, it’s possible on a paddle board.
If you are even more adventurous, there are stand up paddle board (SUP) yoga classes in Atlanta and all over the country. These classes are fun to do with friends and very challenging. As you may know, I do yoga regularly. When I was out on the paddle board, I tried many of my typical yoga poses and found myself losing my balance all over the place and laughing hysterically. I didn’t fall in but was very close several times!
As I was out on the lake, my PT brain kicked in, and I started to think about all of the great benefits stand up paddle boarding would have for both my patients and myself. I quickly realized there were physical and mental benefits to this exercise.
What benefits can you get from stand up paddle boarding?
Foot strength: You can focus on maintaining the arch of your foot while on the board, and after a short time you will start noticing all of the intrinsic muscles firing and working. After several hours of standing on my board, my feet started to cramp! Working these muscles is great for runners, triathletes and people who wear shoes all day. Foot strength is important for the fight against lower leg injuries.
Balance: Balance is unbelievably important for any athlete and for adults of all ages. Unfortunately the older we get, the worse our balance gets if we don't practice it. Standing up on a paddle board challenges your balance. I was in a quiet lake chilling out and noticed how much I was balancing, but on the ocean or a busier lake the challenge will dramatically increase. Imagine steadying yourself on the board as waves roll past.
Core strength: Maintaining an upright position on an unstable surface while having to dynamically paddle forces your core to kick in and stabilize you. If it doesn't, you fall. We can use more core work- why not make it fun?!
Arm strength: Spending several hours paddling around a lake or ocean uses all of the muscles in your arms.
Mindfulness/relaxation:If you are looking for a way to disconnect from your busy life, there is nothing better than being in the middle of the lake, looking up at the blue sky, feeling the breeze through your hair and listening to the sound of birds. Many of us struggle with letting go and relaxing- this is a great way to do it! If you bring you phone, you risk losing it in the water...so leave it behind!
Play:There is a lot of research about the benefits of play for adults. Play improves our imagination, relaxation, creativity, productivity and overall well being! So go play this summer.
If you haven't tried SUP, I hope you get a chance to this summer. It's a great way to mix up your regular exercise routine and still get strong!