Did you go the gym today? Did you run, cycle or swim within the week? If yes, you should feel proud of yourself. You may think this is mission accomplished since you follow a physically active and healthy lifestyle. But take a minute and think again. Despite your 2-4 times per week exercise routine, how is your daily life overall? Do you sit more than 8 hours at the office? Do you spend lots of hours watching TV? Do you use your car to get to the grocery store, which may be just a few blocks away from your home? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you might be in trouble.
Over the last 50 years, research on physical activity and health culminated in the release of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommended that adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week to attain the health benefits associated with physical activity. However, in the last 5 years this approach has been criticized by an increasing number of scientists and health professionals. There has been considerable interest in understanding the role of sedentary behaviors on health, independent of overall physical activity levels, since one can be both sedentary and physically active (e.g. an office worker who sits most of his/her work hours, but who also jogs regularly). A recent Australian study added to the growing body of evidence that people who sit the most die the soonest. The results showed that you can’t exercise this effect away, even though exercise does help reduce it greatly. The study’s simple message was that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity. Public health programs should focus on reducing sitting time in addition to increasing physical activity levels. But wait a minute; a combination of physical activity while we are standing? This reminds me of something that I tried few weeks ago and it totally got me. Two weeks ago, I had the chance to try the Stand Up Paddling (SUP), something that I enjoyed so much and I am willing to make it part of my regular exercise routine.
Interestingly, the 2013 outdoors recreation participation report showed that SUP was one of the most popular outdoor activities among first-time participants, with a median participant age of 28, followed by boardsailing and windsurfing with the median age of 30. SUP has surged to a fast-growing water sport that fitness experts say delivers a full-body workout to anyone exercising on an ocean, lakes or rivers. The health benefits of this new type of exercise are many, and I’d like to share some with you now:
Core and peripheral strength It’s a great workout, particularly for the core muscles while also being easy on the joints. In addition, the variation in exercise settings (e.g. lakes, rivers or oceans; waves or no waves) helps you to build your peripheral muscle strength. Most importantly, you gain more balanced strength, since you need to paddle on both the left and right rather than just one side (as is the case in other sports like canoe or dragon-boat racing).
Aerobic fitness The combination of arms, core and legs being used to propel yourself forward creates a whole body workout and adequate calorie-burning to help control or reduce your body fat. Certainly, whole body coordination during long distance SUP by playing around and racing with friends will provide you with one of the most beneficial aerobic workouts.
Balance All the stabilizing muscles in the hip, lower leg and knee joints are activated in a therapeutic way to improve balance and stability on the unstable board. This is why SUP is recommended instead of kayak when you have back or low leg pain.
Flexibility and Meditation Yoga on an unstable board improves both your flexibility and meditation status. Yoga on the board helps in reducing any depression and anxiety symptoms by shifting your attention to balance and more positive emotions.
Enjoyment Either by paddling alone or with a group of friends brings you closer to nature and consequently keeps you away from all your daily distractions. Time moves slower, giving you the chance to observe the beauty of the natural environment over and underwater, promoting feelings of euphoria and fulfillment.
So there you have it – two in one; SUP improves your physical as well as mental health while helping you lead a physically active lifestyle, drastically reducing damaging sedentary behavior like sitting for the majority of the day. SUP is an exercise activity that I fully recommend you to try one day (the upcoming summer months present the perfect opportunity!). And “listen”, as my SUP coach advised me “in order to keep your balance on the board you should keep paddling”. Therefore, my message to you is: Stand more, keep paddling, find your balance, live longer and enjoy life on the water.