Canoeing: The Fun, Low-Impact Exercise for Seniors

For active seniors who love nature and enjoy an active lifestyle, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures that are fun and low impact  — and can help prevent falls and boost cardiovascular health at the same time.

Recreational activities like canoeing offer many health benefits, plus the chance to spend time outside on the water, surrounded by fresh air and scenic views. Here’s a look at some health-enhancing benefits of canoeing that will make you want to grab a paddle and head to the nearest mountain stream, crystal clear lake or meandering river.

Health benefits of canoeing

Being more physically active is a critical factor in preventing heart disease and maintaining a healthy heart. The National Institute on Aging recommends people aged 65 and older aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Physical activity doesn’t have to happen all at once; it’s best to exercise at least a few minutes every day.

Aside from being an enjoyable activity, canoeing offers many physical and mental health benefits. Because canoeing is considered a cardiac exercise, it improves heart health by increasing your heart rate to a healthy level and improving blood circulation. By adding canoeing to your wellness routine, you’ll be exercising your heart regularly, making it stronger and more efficient.

Calories burned while canoeing can help older adults achieve and maintain healthy body weight. Paddling a canoe also increases muscle strength in your arms, back, shoulders and chest and improves stamina and energy levels.

Another health benefit of canoeing is fall prevention. Research has identified many conditions contributing to falls, including vitamin D deficiency and lower body weakness. Canoeing can help lower these risk factors in active seniors and help prevent falls.

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. It also supports muscle function and aids in brain development. We all have an inactive form of vitamin D in our system, but we need to expose ourselves to sunlight to experience the benefits. Canoeing is an outdoor activity that involves basking in the sun (wearing sunscreen, of course!) which activates the vitamin in our body.

While the benefits of canoeing are more evident in the upper body, there also are positive effects for the lower body. We use our leg muscles while canoeing to help keep us balanced and turn and maneuver. At the same time, we strengthen our core muscles by engaging our abdomen, obliques and lower back as we reach forward and pull the paddle with each stroke through the water.

In addition to physical health benefits and fall prevention, canoeing also can enhance mental wellness by relieving stress, improving sleep quality and releasing the chemicals in your brain that boost mood and improve focus. Staying active through cardiac activities and low-impact exercises like canoeing also can help improve your memory and thinking skills.

Canoeing and other outdoor activities in western North Carolina

Grace Ridge is a continuing care retirement community in western North Carolina that blends active senior living with Southern charm, breathtaking views and abundant outdoor activities.

Just steps from Grace Ridge’s independent living cottages and apartments is Catawba Meadows Park, which boasts 230 acres, including 2.5 miles of greenway that meanders along the picturesque Catawba River, special seasonal events, a 17-hole disc golf course and plenty of open space for picnics.

Burke County also features many rivers and lakes, including Lake Rhodhiss and Lake Hickory. Morganton’s own jewel, Lake James, is just a short drive away. Along with low-impact exercises such as canoeing, boating, swimming and fishing in the beautiful, clear waters, Lake James State Park also offers 25 miles of trails leading to stunning bluffs, waterfalls and mountain overlooks.

Nestled in the legendary Blue Ridge Mountains, Morganton boasts mild seasonal weather, breathtaking views and plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors either solo or with visiting adult children and grandkids. Come for a visit to learn more about our community and why so many residents and their families consider Grace Ridge a dream retirement destination.