New ACE Studies Examine Benefits of Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Stand-up Paddleboarding

Stand-up Paddleboarding has become a popular pastime, extracurricular activity and even intramural sport at many universities. It is not only a fun sport, but also have numerous health benefits. Recently, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned two studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and University of California, San Diego, providing an examination of the health benefits of this untraditional form of physical activity.

“A key takeaway from these studies is that stand-up paddleboarding is a unique way to incorporate healthy activity in your live and the better you get at it, the more health benefits you see,” said Cedirc X. Bryant, ACE Chief Science Officer, in a press release.

Here is a quick breakdown of the two studies.

Study One: Activation of Core Muscles

The first study at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, led by Jeanne F. Nichols, Ph.D. evaluated the activation of core muscles during stand-up paddleboarding. Study participants wore electromyography electrodes on specific core muscle groups while paddling at various intensities to measure the strength level of activity for each muscle examined.

The data found that front ab muscles and muscles along the lower spine were effectively stimulated, even at lower intensities, while the muscles that run along the sides of the body needed the highest level of paddling intensity to reach significant levels of activation. This level of intensity requires good form that twists the torso with each paddle stroke, which in turn activates the external oblique’s enough to provide a stimulus sufficient to strengthen them.

“To get the comprehensive core benefit many people mention in reference to stand-up paddleboarding, you need to have relatively advanced form or technique, which only comes with practice,” said Bryant. “Without this high level of experience you still get a good workout, you’re just not engaging the full suite of abdominal muscles.”

Study Two: Caloric Output and Cardiorespiratory Function

The second study, which took place at the University of California, San Diego, under the leadership of Jeanne F. Nichols, Ph.D., examined the number of calories burned during stand-up paddleboarding and the benefits of cardiorespiratory function. The study utilized testing in a lab environment pool as well as out on the open water of San Diego Bay. During the lab portion, participants wore a chest-mounted portable breath-by-breath metabolic system to measure everything from heart rate to the amount of oxygen they used. When on the open water, participants’ heart-rates and distances traveled were measured with a sport watch.

The research showed that experience with stand-up paddleboarding was key to achieving a beneficial workout. While in the lab, both novice and experience paddle boarders reached the intensity of exercise needed to improve cardiorespiratory health. However, on the open water, most novice paddle boarders didn’t reach the level of exercise needed to significantly improve cardiorespiratory function, while experienced paddle boarders did so easily.

According to Bryant, “The difference seen in tow settings is likely attributable to a lack of comfort on the water, which would improve over time. Both groups of researchers remind us that there is great value in leisurely exercise and getting outdoors, but if you are using stand-up paddleboarding as a means of achieving a good workout, you have to paddle with intent.”

To view the study, visit:

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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