I’ve heard that paddleboarding is great exercise. Is it, and are there any dangers I should be aware of?

Paddleboarding, also called stand-up paddling, can be a terrific form of exercise. Because the sport requires you to stand and balance on a board while paddling on the open water, the muscles of your core (your abdominal muscles) and those of your sides (your external obliques), are constantly engaged in helping you to stay erect. Engaging in the sport regularly will strengthen the muscles in that region. Other benefits include better balance and relief from any lower back pain, since it’s your abdominal muscles that support your back. A recent study has shown that these core-strengthening benefits go up substantially as you master the sport. Researchers theorize that more skilled stand-up paddlers exercise at a higher intensity, moving and twisting their bodies more to propel their boards faster through the water.

While there are some cardiovascular benefits associated with paddleboarding, they are more limited. In a second study, only those who had mastered the sport and paddled at a perceived rate of exertion of 15 (on a scale of 20) exercised at a level of intensity that would improve cardiorespiratory function.

Many outdoor sports shops have paddleboarding classes, but some people don’t even need one to get started. If you can’t find a class in your area, look online for tips on mounting the board, keeping your balance and learning to fall. Always use a leash–sold separately from the board–which tethers you to the board and keeps it within reach should you fall.

Important: Though paddleboarding is a safe, low-impact sport suitable for those of any age, people with shoulder, back or balance issues should approach the sport cautiously at first to be sure they are not aggravating any existing issues. Always wear a life vest, slather on a waterproof sunscreen and wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.

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