Why stand up paddleboarding is the ultimate travel workout

Card image


Planes, trains and automobiles are one thing. But stand up paddleboarding offers an entirely new window onto the world. With low environmental impact, taking to your board is a brilliant way of slowing things down and really seeing a place – wherever you happen to be. And it also provides a double whammy of strength and cardio training: training you can actually enjoy. Here’s why stand up paddleboarding should come top of your wish list for travels far and wide:

Card image

What is paddleboarding?

Stand up paddleboarding is a watersport that’s become popular in the past few years. People use a paddle to propel themselves forward while standing (or sometimes kneeling) on a paddleboard. “It basically comes down to standing on the middle of a board with feet shoulder-width apart, and propelling yourself through the water with a long oar,” SUP fan Nicky Collins tells the Guardian.

Is paddleboarding a good workout?

Yes, stand up paddleboarding is an excellent workout. Few activities provide such an extensive range, from upper body training to leg work and core strength building. At the same time, it’s also a fairly low-intensity and fun thing to do. Here’s why you should skip the gym and make a beeline for your nearest lake instead (or better still, travel the world to do so):

  • Stand up paddleboarding is very simple

Much of the appeal of stand up paddleboarding [SUP] lies in its tempting simplicity. It doesn’t matter what your body size, shape or level of fitness is. It’s so easy, pretty much anyone can get involved. Don’t believe us? SUP athlete Lizzie Carr tried paddleboarding for the first time just two years before she made history as the only person to navigate the entire length of England via its canal networks. “I’m on a mission to show that anyone can have an adventure,” she said at the time. “What I’m doing is something anyone can do.”

  • Stand up paddleboarding burns loads of calories

What you get out of stand up paddleboarding depends on what you put in; the more you go at it, the more you’ll burn. But even a casual paddle about can churn through 430 calories in the space of an hour, according to SUP World MagThat’s about double the figure you’d burn on a moderately-paced walk over the same time period. Upgrade your stand up paddleboarding session to a yoga workout, and you’ll get through 540 calories in an hour, while an hour of SUP touring (paddling for a distance without stopping at moderate pace) will burn 708 calories, the same level as SUP surfing (like actual surfing, in the sea, but with a paddle).

Card image
  • Stand up paddleboarding is great for your core

Want to get your core up and running without the pain of a plank? Let stand up paddleboarding be your guide. This is a brilliant way to put your core through its paces, since your abdominal muscles will be constantly working to help you keep your balance. It’s more gentle and fun core exercise than say, a seated barbell twist, and yet you’ll definitely feel the reward in action. “The rockier the water, the harder you have to work to stay upright and balanced, which is great for your core,” says Nicky. “It’s great for a flat tummy, too – I’ve never had a six-pack before, but it’s coming.”

  • Stand up paddleboarding builds all-body strength

Beyond the core alone, SUP is also a great all-round body workout. It’s an exercise in strength and endurance that requires almost every element of the body to cooperate and pull its weight. When you paddle through the water, your quadriceps, shoulders, arms, and knees work together to propel you forward. Your leg muscles also up their game to help the core in keeping your balance. And yet, you don’t really feel the ache in the same way as you might in the gym, as you’re distracted by the motion of gliding across water. It’s the perfect cross-trainer, providing both aerobic and strength-based training.

Card image

What are the benefits of stand up paddleboarding?

Stand up paddleboarding isn’t just about smashing those calories, though. It’s also a great workout because of its holistic benefits. SUP has a distinct meditative quality that comes from the ability to dial down and see the world in a slower, more detailed way. Wherever you happen to be, you can use stand up paddleboarding to immerse yourself in the natural landscape, and appreciate your setting from a fresh perspective. Here’s more on the benefits:

  • Stand up paddleboarding is low-impact and relaxing

Forget a hardcore weight-lifting session. SUP will kick your body into shape, but without the residue intensity of other strength-based workouts. It’s also easier to master than say, skiing, and less daunting than something like surfing. It’s up to you how intense you want to make it (current and speed will make the difference) but this is a good activity for anyone who fancies easing themselves into exercise. Surrounded by the beauty of the open landscape, it’s pretty relaxing and you can grab a refresher – by diving into the water – whenever it gets too intense.

  • Stand up paddleboarding immerses you in nature

As well as being a form of exercise, stand up paddleboarding is about escapism. You get to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, with the sun on your shoulders, and water stretching out all around you. It’s a rich and immersive experience, and one that will bring you face-to-face with the meditative delights of Mother Nature. “Nature has an overwhelming power to bring calm and clarity,” says Lizzie. Her own canal adventure, she says, was a way of treasuring “a presence of calm and tranquility in often dense, urban places”.

Card image
  • Stand up paddleboarding lets you see the world at your pace

SUP provides a full-body workout in the most amazing settings. When you see the world on water, you gain a whole new perspective. And you can use it to broaden your travel horizons, too. Whether you’re paddling your way down a dense tropical waterway in the Philippines, or marveling at the wilderness of central Europe, stand up paddleboarding carves out a whole new, and more serene, vantage point. It’s a unique way of spotting out wildlife, and appreciating the rich natural beauty of the planet’s lakes, rivers and coastal stretches. It taps into the delights of slow travel, too.

  • Stand up paddleboarding comes with the perfect cool down

For us, the best kind of workouts end with some chill time – and that’s certainly the case with stand up paddleboarding. Whenever you feel like you’ve paddled enough, you can simply stretch out on your board and soak in the rays. Have a gentle snooze, splash some water over you to cool down; or start an impromptu water fight with your SUP neighbor (#yolo). Since you can paddleboard anywhere in the world – and even in the same place, wind and water conditions will vary – this is a workout where no two sessions will ever be the same. So, kick back, relax and make the most of this supremely soothing sport.

Card image

Where can I try stand up paddleboarding?

Stand up paddleboarding has leaped in popularity over the past few years – so the world is your oyster when it comes to great spots for trying it out. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Meander down River Loboc in the Philippines

The dense tropical interiors of River Loboc on the island of Bohol are best appreciated from atop your board. Balmy sunshine, palm trees and a route away from the tourists: what more could you need?

Splash your way around the coast of Paraty, Brazil

Paraty is dream territory for your first paddleboarding foray, with a maze of tucked-away islands and hidden coves scattered around the pretty coastal town on Brazil’s south-east coast.

Glide across Lake Bled in the heart of Slovenia

Lake Bled is a fairytale-like setting with a castle on the edge and an island in the middle. Paddle your way over for a mooch about, and get up-close with its rich sense of cultural history.

Get paddling on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula (pictured above) is at its most ravishing when you’re moseying around it on a paddleboard. It offers a really intimate view onto the magnificent coastline, along with its thriving marine and bird life.

Images: Flash Pack, Unsplash


Subscribe to our newsletter


Hear about our new adventures before anyone else

Talk to an expert

Need help choosing your perfect adventure? Speak to one of our dedicated Travel Advisors now.

Contact Us


Hear about our new adventures before anyone else.

Be the first to hear about exclusive Flash Pack offers.

Access exciting competitions.

Receive weekly inspiration and travel stories from solos just like you.