When Dr. Galyn Vande Zande discovered the magic of kayaking Red Rock Lake in 2010, his main motivations were nature watching and a yearning to explore the area. He never expected to enjoy benefits like lower blood pressure or welcome news on his bathroom scale.
“I was dumbfounded,” said Vande Zande, who has a family practice in Pella. “I had lost 40 pounds in two months.”
Aside from just enjoying an activity outside, central Iowa kayaker Vande Zande discovered that getting fit was part of the package. “Besides being outside on a beautiful lake, I am strengthening my core muscles when I paddle anywhere from two to five hours,” he said.
On average, a paddler can burn anywhere from 280 to 700 calories an hour depending on pace and effort, according to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise.
“I find that kayaking is very complimentary to biking in that they are both low impact sports that I can participate in lifelong exercise and fun,” said Vande Zande. “Both sports let you experience nature. I would much rather be outside exercising than stuck in a building running on a treadmill.”
The Iowa DNR is calling for Iowans to get fit and active by joining events statewide and log the number of minutes they paddle throughout Summer of Paddling 2012, a series of events promoting the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Paddlers will find many Iowa events at www.sop2012.org, including water trail designations and other river events.
“Whether or not you take part in one of these organized events, I encourage anyone who paddles this season to begin tracking the minutes they paddle on Livestrong.com,” said Todd Robertson, rivers outreach coordinator at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
A fitness group set up on Livestrong.com, a web site supported by cyclist Lance Armstrong, allows paddlers to easily track time paddled, and to watch how many calories they burn. Individuals and communities are encouraged to offer challenges to each other, and start down the road to better fitness through paddling. The site also offers an on-site blog for notes and challenges. Register for free at www.livestrong.com/groups/group/iowa-paddlers/. Click on “join the group” and you will be taken to the registration page. You are encouraged to explore the Livestrong.com site and even use the “intake” tool in addition to the calorie tracker. Brief instructions are located within the group blog.
“At the end of the season, the person who burns the most calories will get a free, one night stay in a cabin on a water trail and will be able to choose one of four locations across the state.
And it’s just not the traditional kayaking and canoeing for paddling fun and fitness, but now exploding onto the scene is stand-up-paddle boarding, better known as SUP.
“I’ve never had a workout quite like it,” said Todd Robertson, outreach coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “Every single muscle comes into play on a SUP and my abs, arms, legs, lungs and mind are reaping the benefits.”
Burning calories comes easy when paddling. At a moderate pace for one hour, canoeing can burn 490 calories, kayaking can burn 580 and stand-up-paddleboarding (SUP) can burn up to 700 calories an hour. The health benefits of outdoor activities can show up quickly.
“Paddling played a big role in lowering my blood pressure so significantly that I was able to discontinue my antihypertensive medications,” said Dr. Vande Zande. “Paddling, along with healthy eating, changed everything for me.”