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Benefits of Paddling in the Adirondacks

It's not news that there are measurable physical and emotional payoffs to paddling sports. Paddling offers great exercise and a lot of fun to boot. But when you're paddling in the Adirondacks—whether it’s kayaking down a river or doing stand-up paddleboard yoga on a serene lake—you'll be getting much more than just exercise and fun. It's an experience.

man carrying a kayak

What is Paddling?

If you're out on the water in a small craft without a motor, you're paddling!

Types of paddling vessels:

  • Kayak – closed vessel, riders typically use a 2-sided paddle
  • Canoe – open vessel, riders typically use a one-sided paddle
  • Standup Paddleboard – rider stands on a flat paddleboard, uses a special one-sided paddle
  • Rowboat (aka Dory) – open vessel, riders typically use two one-sided oars
  • Raft – open vessel, riders can use a variety of oar types, depending on where they're paddling (i.e whitewater rafting versus lazy river floating)


woman enjoying the benefits of paddling through the Marion River in the Adirondacks

Paddling Is Great Physical Exercise

When it comes to a good workout, paddling checks all the boxes. It can improve cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and endurance all at the same time. Whether you're kayaking for weight loss or rowing to get in shape, you can't go wrong with paddling as your exercise of choice.

  1. It gets the heart pumping – the combination of rowing and balancing your vessel makes for an activity that elevates your heart rate.
  2. It's an upper-body workout – This one's pretty obvious. You have to use your arms to propel yourself through the water! Rowing increases muscle strength in the arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back.
  3. It's a lower-body workout – In order for your arms to be efficient with the paddles, your legs have to apply pressure to the vessel. Though it's not as active a workout as your arms are getting, rest assured that it is building strength down there too.
  4. It's a core workout – As you're rowing, you're engaging your core muscles as well through a rotating motion your body makes as it attempts to balance your paddling vessel (especially on standup paddleboards!)
  5. It's easy on the joints – paddling is considered a low-impact exercise, which means there's little risk of wear and tear on your joints as you glide along.


kayaking paddling in the Adirondacks during the fall

Paddling Is Great Mental Exercise

Paddling has been proven to lower stress levels for a number of reasons. The endorphins brought on by active exercise contribute to that, but paddling itself is also meditative by nature. You're out in the great wide open, breathing in the fresh, mountain air, free from the hustle and bustle of workaday life, engaging in a rhythmic activity—that's a recipe to relax the mind.

man enjoying the benefits of paddling a canoe on Tupper Lake

Paddling is Good for the Planet

If you're looking for an eco-friendly activity, paddling is where it's at.

Paddling is powered by you. You're the driver and the motor, and you don't need gas!

Motors can leak. Oil and gas are harmful pollutants to freshwater bodies and their aquatic ecosystems.

Excessive speed harms the aquatic balance. Boats and vessels that are powered by motors move faster, and excessive speed can disrupt natural currents. That can stir up sediment and cause shoreline erosion that affects a lake's ecosystem.

group of people whitewater rafting in the Adirondacks

Paddling Safety

No matter what type of paddling you choose to do in the Adirondacks, it's essential to take measures to ensure the safety out there on the lake or river.

1. Life Jacket

By New York State law, kids have to wear personal floatation devices (PFDs), and it's usually recommended that adults do too. For more on finding the right PFDs, visit the U.S. Coast Guard's website.

2. Safety Whistle/Light

The U.S. Coast Guard also recommends that while out on the water during the day you carry a whistle or noisemaking device that allows you to alert other boaters to your presence to avoid collision. At night, it's a good idea to carry a flashlight, or attach a light to your boat, too.

3. Sun & Weather Protection

While there's plenty of Adirondack shade on the hiking trails, there may not be much out on many of the bodies of water you'd be paddling on. So take care to cover your skin properly, either with clothing or with sunscreen. And if you're paddling during cooler weather in the spring and fall, you will want to make sure you dress appropriately.

4. Drinking Water

Just because you're on the water doesn't mean you don't need to stay hydrated. Be sure to bring a canteen or a bottle of water to re-hydrate throughout your journey.

man carrying safe paddling gear and kayak

Explore More of the Adirondacks with Paddling

As much as you may travel around the Adirondacks by foot or by car, there are some things you just can't really experience here unless you're out on the water, like unique lake islands, protected shorelines, hidden ponds, and yes, even moose sightings!