Calories Burned Kayaking

Calories Burned Kayaking at Different Intensity Levels

Kayaking is a vigorous physical activity, and its intensity is a big part of the fun. Being out on the water, keeping the boat steady while traveling long distances takes a lot of effort. All that paddling is a great workout, so you’ll burn a large number of calories out on the water. So, how many calories are burned kayaking? Read on!

Factors Impacting Calories Burned Kayaking

The exact number of calories you can burn kayaking depends on the particular challenges you encounter out on the water. Taking on tougher currents and doing lots of maneuvering is more strenuous than paddling on gentle waters.

So, more challenging paddling sessions will burn more calories.

Calories Burned Kayaking

Additionally, factors like your level of fitness, height, size, and gender also impact the number of calories you will burn while kayaking. That’s why it’s difficult to know exactly how many calories you burn while kayaking.

But there is a formula to help you get an approximation. Let’s find out what it is!

Formula to Find Out Calories Burned While Kayaking

Use this formula to find out approximately how many calories you burn while kayaking.

Calories burned per minute = (MET x bodyweight in Kg x 3.5) ÷ 200

“MET” (Metabolic Equivalent) refers to the energy required to perform a physical activity over a certain period of time.

A MET of 1 is roughly equivalent to very low levels of activity, like sitting still or lying in bed. Walking at a moderate pace is roughly equivalent to a MET level of 3. High levels of exertion begin at a MET level of 4+.

Calories Burned While Kayaking

Kayaking while exerting moderate effort usually equates to a MET level 5. Vigorous competition paddling can be as high as 12.5. Therefore, applied to the formula:

Moderate Effort Kayak PaddlingCompetition Effort Paddling
(5 x 80 x 3.5) ÷ 200 = 7(12.5 x 80 x 3.5) ÷ 200 = 17.5
Someone weighing 80kg or 176lb can expect to burn 7 calories per minute while kayaking with a moderate effort.

In an hour, they can expect to burn 420 calories (7×60).
That same 80kg person can burn 17.5 calories per minute while kayaking at a competitive level.

Over the duration of an hour, they can burn 1,050 calories.

That’s a serious workout!

Hate math? I’ve got you – here’s a simple Kayak calorie calculator you can use to get a pretty decent estimate based on your effort level and body weight:

Kayaking Calorie Calculator

Can You Lose Weight By Kayaking?

Losing weight depends on a calories-in-calories-out formula. If the number of calories you burn exceeds the number you take in, you will lose weight. As kayaking can involve a high-calorie burn, you may well be able to exceed your calorie input for that day through paddling.

Can I Lose Weight By Kayaking

If this happens, it’s possible to lose weight.  Always give yourself adequate nutrition, though! You need that energy to kayak safely and enjoyably.

Don’t over-restrict the calories you consume on days when you want to kayak. Feed yourself enough energy to paddle to the best of your ability.

Not sufficiently fueling yourself puts you at risk and ultimately means a less effective workout. Strike the right balance between calories-in and calories-out to achieve weight loss.

Kayaking has another bonus for weight loss: the muscle building. More muscle means a higher metabolic rate, and that means a higher rate of calorie burning, even at rest.

Is Kayaking Better For Strength or Cardio?

A great thing about kayaking is how it offers both strength training and cardio in a single activity. The strenuous movement increases your heart rate, which makes it a cardio exercise.

Is Kayaking Better For Strength or Cardio

Meanwhile, the repetitive motion and beneficial strain will build muscle over time. Adapt your exertion depending on your goals.

If you don’t care about calorie burn but would like to improve your muscle strength over time, you can slow down the pace. If you’re trying to get a good cardio workout and optimize calorie burning, push yourself and see how fast you can go.

With kayaking, you engage your whole body from your arms to your core. This means it’s a much more immersive cardio exercise compared to running on a treadmill.

The thrill and excitement of pushing yourself through different kinds of water will also make it a much more exciting cardio exercise than any indoor gym activity.

So, Kayaking is the Ideal Workout!

In addition to burning a large number of calories, you can also train and enhance different muscle groups while kayaking. This makes it an amazing workout for a wide range of fitness levels.

Which Muscles Do You Use Kayaking?

The paddling motion is particularly good for arm strength. When rowing, you engage a number of different arm and back muscles in a single movement.

Which Muscles Do You Use Kayaking

Some of these muscles include the anterior, lateral, and rear deltoids. The chest and pectoral muscles are also used with each rowing motion, not to mention the triceps and biceps.

Overall, you can expect to gain some serious arm strength from paddling regularly. And the core is also engaged while rowing.

Your abdominal muscles – including the obliques – gain volume and become more toned. You might find your abs are a bit sore in the days after a kayak trip when you’re just starting out.

This just means your muscles are growing! Core strength is valuable as it improves your posture and makes you more agile in everyday life.

How Does Kayaking Make Muscles Grow?

Muscles become worn out from repetitive and intensive use. As they repair themselves, they gain volume.

How Does Kayaking Make Muscles Grow

This is the basic principle of muscle growth and strength training. Kayaking involves strenuous arm and core movements.

The repetitive motion needed to propel the kayak forward is great for strength and endurance. Every time you kayak, you’ll find yourself pushing further and exerting more force.

Kayaking will therefore help you to build muscle over the longer term.

Kayaking’s Wide-Ranging Health Benefits

As well as building muscle and burning lots of calories, kayaking is a lot of fun and offers a host of other health benefits.

Kayaking is a Lot of Fun
  • Having adventures in the great outdoors improves mental health.
  • It releases endorphins, making you feel good and easing stress.
  • You get the benefits of fresh air and sunshine.
  • Kayaking with friends and in groups is a great way of bonding and building relationships.

Exercise, including kayaking, is about improving your quality of life and well-being. Burning calories is just a fantastic extra!

Kayaking beginner? Visit my guide to kayak paddling technique to get started.

The Life Jacket I Use and Recommend

In most states, wearing a life jacket or PFD is the law when you’re out on the water.

If you’re like me, you want a safe, effective PFD that doesn’t limit your range of movement when paddling. That’s why I highly recommend this one from Onyx. 

It offers great range of motion, can keep me afloat in the water (I’m 6’2″), and it is very comfortable. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.