Work Out on the Water
Instead of getting in the water this summer, try getting on it.
With a sailboat, canoe, kayak, windsurfing outfit, or pair of water skis, you can
explore a whole new world of activities. Once you've embraced proper training and
safety, you'll get a fine, fun workout.
Benefit. Canoeing can offer intense exercise. Even your legs can get a workout by helping
you steer. You can push them against the sides and throw your hips 1 way or the other
to nudge the canoe in the right direction. But you can also enjoy a relaxing float
Fast fact. Aluminum canoes weigh up to 90 pounds. Just reaching the water can be a good workout.
Best advice. Canoes can hold several people and gear. This makes them ideal for families.
Benefit. Like canoeing, kayaking offers strength-building and aerobic benefits. The sport
uses your legs, torso, shoulders, and chest.
Fast fact. This enclosed craft, typically built for 1 or 2 people, rides below the waterline.
Best advice. Generally lighter and easier to steer than canoes, kayaks are made for either open
water (sea kayaks) or rivers (whitewater kayaks). In considering which suits you,
remember that white-water kayaking or rafting carries more risks.
Benefit. Piloting a small craft (8 feet to 24 feet) through waves will keep you active, but
sailing doesn't provide an intense workout.
Fast fact. America's waterways are becoming crowded because of this popular sport.
Best advice. Safety instruction is important for all boaters. All boaters should know how to navigate
and learn the "rules of the road," according to the National Safe Boating Council
Benefit. Especially for beginners, water skiing is a physically demanding activity that particularly
relies on upper body strength.
Fast fact. Water skiing was first invented in the 1920s in Minnesota.
Best advice. It may seem like a daredevil sport, but U.S.A. Water Ski, the national governing
group for water skiing in this country, says it's relatively safe.
Benefit. Repeatedly lifting the sail out of the water as you learn the sport may be the most
vigorous workout you get while windsurfing. Once you learn how to windsurf, it's not
as much of a workout. But it can help improve balance.
Fast fact. In recent years, manufacturers have designed wider boards that are easier to handle.
Best advice. With professional instruction, you can learn the basics in 2 hours to 6 hours. Enthusiasts
see windsurfing — basically riding a surfboard while controlling a sail attached to
the center — as the purest form of sailing. That's because it's just you and the wind,
and very little between you and the water.
Set sail safely
Mulling over a water sport? Consider these beginner's tips:
Take a class. Trial and error isn't the best or safest teacher. Lessons help you avoid bad habits
you'll have to correct later. Plus, by learning the right way, you're less likely
to get frustrated and quit. To find a good school or instructor, check local colleges
or learning centers. Ads in specialty magazines and the websites of national organizations
devoted to the activity are good starting points, too.
Dress for safety. A personal flotation device is necessary for these activities, although windsurfers
may choose instead to wear a wet suit that helps you stay afloat. In approximately
90% of all drowning deaths, the victims were not wearing a life jacket, the NSBC says.
It's important to wear your life jacket whenever you are on the water.
Get in shape. Different sports work different muscles. The chief muscles you use to paddle are
in your belly and back, not your arms, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Water skiing, and to some degree windsurfing, works muscles in the legs, belly, upper
arms and back. Look for exercises that strengthen the muscles you'll use on the water
like sit-ups and back extensions for paddling activities.
Location, location, location. Resources are more plentiful on the coasts, but you don't have to live on the coast
to join in. Canoeists can paddle inland rivers, and sailboats travel on inland lakes.