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11 Calorie-Burning Water Sports for the Perfect Beach Body

by Octavia Drughi

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Summer is the best time to go outside and get active in the water. You’ll get your heart rate pumping and melt away those extra calories without even knowing it. 

Physical activity in the water burns tons of calories in very little time. Whilst performing exercises in a swimming pool can become dull quite fast, there’s a far better option out there – water sports.

Shredding calories is almost effortless when surfing, swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddling. Of course, this does not mean that your muscles are not working hard while at it, but these activities are so darn fun and adrenaline-packed that you’ll completely forget that you are also exercising.

Have you ever wondered just how much you have to surf, paddle or swim to burn off those margaritas? We have the answers!

Note: The number of calories you burn during one hour of physical activity depends on your weight. Below, we will give you the average numbers for both a 130-lbs (59 kg) and a 175-lbs (80 kg) person. If you weigh more, you will burn more calories. If you weigh less, you will burn fewer calories.


1. Surfing – up to 250 calories per hour


As demanding as it may look, wave surfing does not burn as many calories as one would expect. However, a wave riding session will give you a full-body workout and work wonders on your physique.

Paddling to catch a wave engages your shoulders and back muscles. Popping up on the surfboard and the actual riding will hit your core and leg muscles (hamstrings, quads, glutes).

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 180 calories surfing for one hour. A 175-lbs person will burn 240 calories per hour.
  • More experienced surfers burn a whole lot more while performing their neat tricks and when charging big waves.

Find out what are the best surfing destinations for beginners


2. Kitesurfing – up to 1,000 calories per hour


Depending on the wind and water conditions, kitesurfing can be a very intense workout. It tones the upper body, working the arms, core muscles, and lower back. It also strengthens the leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and calves).

  • In wind speeds of 12-15 knots, a 130-lbs person will burn around 600 calories in one hour of kitesurfing. A 175-lbs person can burn around 1,000 calories per hour. Women will burn slightly more calories kitesurfing.
  • The stronger the wind and the choppier the water, the more calories you will burn.

Find out what are the best kitesurfing destinations for beginners.


3. Windsurfing – up to 1,000 calories per hour


Windsurfing engages the muscles of the upper legs and hips (gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps), as well as the muscles of the lower leg (gastrocnemius, soleus, anterior tibialis). Keeping your balance on the board means you are engaging your core (rectus abdominus, obliques, spinae erector), particularly your deep postural muscles which give you waist definition for a perfect beach body.

» Join a windsurfing camp.

If you are a novice windsurfer, don’t worry. Even falling off the board burns enough calories – the effort you put into getting out of the water and back on the board engages enough muscles to keep shredding calories.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 177 calories in one hour of windsurfing. A 175-lbs person can burn 300 calories per hour. Stronger winds and currents mean more effort and, therefore, more calories burned.
  • Expert windsurfers can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour!

Not sure where to go? Find out what are the best windsurfing destinations in the world.


4. Stand-up paddleboarding – up to 1,125 calories per hour


At first glance, stand-up paddleboarding appears to be an upper-body workout. In addition to your arms, it targets the muscles of the back (erector spinae), the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis) and legs (you are standing up, right?).

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 374 calories per hour of stand-up paddling at a leisurely pace. A 175-lbs person will burn 500 calories per hour.
  • At an intensive pace, the average-weight paddler can expect to burn up to 735 calories per hour.
  • SUP racing can burn up to 1,125 calories per hour.
  • SUP yoga burns anywhere between 233 and 540 calories per hour (depending on the intensity).

Novice paddlers tend to burn fewer calories than more experienced ones, who move more vigorously.


5. Waterskiing/wakeboarding – up to 500 calories per hour


Waterskiing and wakeboarding target your back, core, abdominal and leg muscles. The effort you will put into pulling with your upper body and pushing with your lower body makes for a whole-body workout. Your legs and core will be engaged throughout the ride.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 324 calories in an hour or waterskiing or wakeboarding. A 175-lbs person will burn up to 500 calories per hour.


6. Sailing – up to 315 calories per hour


Sailing isn’t all about relaxing in a bikini, getting a cool tan and chilling on the deck with a nice glass of wine. If you are the one controlling the boat, then you will torch calories and strengthen your muscles too! 

Sailing works your shoulders (rhomboids, trapezius, rotator cuff) and back muscles, arm muscles (deltoids, biceps, triceps), your chest (pectoralis) and core, as well as your legs (after all, you are walking around the deck).

  • A 130-lbs person can burn 236 calories in an hour of competitive sailing. A 175-lbs person will burn 315 calories per hour.


7. White water rafting – up to 400 calories per hour


White water rafting is a heart-pumping activity that engages your entire upper body. Paddling vigorously down the rapids strengthens your arm, shoulder and back muscles, as well as your core. Add the adrenaline rush to the whole excitement and you’ll hardly notice you’re exercising.

  • A 130-lbs person burns 270 calories per hour while white water rafting. A 175-lbs person burns 402 calories per hour.


8. Snorkeling – up to 420 calories per hour


As far as watersports are concerned, snorkeling seems to be on the low-intensity side. But when you are flutter kicking in the water, you’ll be giving your glutes a nice workout. Being the largest muscles in the body, this means you’ll be burning calories. Plenty of them!

In addition to your glutes, your hamstrings and quads will be engaged too. Plus, the longer the distance you dive the more you will use your arms to propel yourself. This translates into an extra burn.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn 312 calories in one hour of snorkeling. A 175-lbs person will burn 420 calories in one hour.


9. Kayaking – up to 500 calories per hour


Paddling down a river or around a lake is a great upper-body workout that works your shoulders (deltoids), the muscles of your back (trapezius, rhomboids, dorsi) and core (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques). It helps build muscle and lose fat quite fast:

  • A 130-lbs person will burn as many as 300 calories during a one-hour leisurely kayak ride. A 175-lbs person will burn up to 400 calories per hour.
  • The number of calories burned during kayaking depends on the weather conditions, speed, and currents. Sea and ocean kayaking involve resistance against the water, and an intensive session can burn up to 500 calories per hour.


10. Swimming – up to 800 calories per hour


Swimming is one of the best full-body workouts out there – it helps build muscle-mass, optimizes cholesterol levels and burns fat. It engages your shoulders (deltoids), the muscles of your back (rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi), your core (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques), glutes, and chest. Furthermore, it has a low impact on the joints.

  • A 130-lbs person can burn 360 calories in one hour of moderate-intensity swimming. A 175-lbs person can burn 483 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn 577 calories in one hour of vigorous swimming, such as backstroke, breaststroke (when done correctly), freestyle or butterfly. A 175-lbs person will burn 777 calories per hour.
  • Swimming leisurely in a lake or ocean burns around 340 calories per hour.


11. Canoeing – up to 900 calories per hour


Kayaking isn’t the only paddling sport. In fact, canoeing burns calories even faster. The difference between kayaking and canoeing lies in the position of the paddler. In a kayak, the paddler sits on a low seat with their legs extended in front. In a canoe, the paddler either kneels on the bottom of the boat or sits on a raised seat.

  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 250 calories in one hour of canoeing at a relaxed pace – maximum speed of 2 mph (3.2 km/h). A 175-lbs person will burn 357 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 540 calories per hour rowing with a moderate effort at an average speed of 4-6 mph (6.5-9.5 km/h). A 175-lbs person will burn around 735 calories per hour.
  • A 130-lbs person will burn over 800 calories per hour canoeing with a vigorous effort at a speed that exceeds 6 mph (9.5 km/h). A 175-lbs person can burn up to 900 calories per hour.


Now that you know just how many calories you’re shredding while enjoying your favorite water sport, join a beginner surf camp and discover a new passion!

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