Fitness trend: Kayaking

Kayaking can get you into shape and help keep you in touch with nature

Fitness trend: Kayaking

Source: Best Health magazine, September 2013; Images: Thinkstock

Sisters Nancy and Tanya Yanaky have a pact: Every year, they go on a kayak­ing trip together. ‘It’s time outside of our everyday lives,’ says Tanya, a TV host in Toronto with two sons, 8 and 11. ‘Kayaking is such a beautiful way to work hard and surround yourself with Mother Nature.’

Nancy, a special education teacher and mom to three teenagers, has been paddling for about six years on Napanee River near her home in Napanee, Ont., and on various family trips around North America. She introduced Tanya to the sport, and the two have taken guided kayaking trips for the past three summers. They booked a six-day camping trip with Black Feather in northern Ontario’s French River area for their first trip in 2011, and fell in love with the scenery, tranquility and sheer fun that every day brought. ‘We have the same sense of humour, so we’re laughing the whole time,’ says Nancy, 46. ‘We tell stories about when we were kids and share anecdotes about our own families.’

Being able to catch up while being active is important for both women. A multi-day kayaking trip (which includes setting up camp, plus four hours of paddling and portaging) adds up to a daily calorie burn of 3,430 for a 155-lb. women. ‘You finish a week of paddling and feel strong,’ says Tanya, 43. ‘I love that feeling of strength in the upper body and core.’ Plus, kayaking is low-impact so it’s easy on the joints. Nancy has also noticed improved upper body strength, and maintains it in the off-season with exercises such as push-ups.

In addition to the meditative effects that come from rhythmic paddling on beautiful waterways, kayaking allows the sisters to tap into their creative sides. Says Nancy, ‘On our first trip I took a million pictures and kept thinking, ‘What a painting this would make.’ The following winter I took a workshop and started painting scenes from our trips.’ Adds Tanya: ‘Now, we look around with an artist’s eye’pointing out how that moss is growing or the shadow on a birch tree.’ And it looks like the art could soon take on a tropical flavour’the sisters are eyeing Baja or Belize for their next trip!

Want to try kayaking? You can find courses at

This article was originally titled "Paddler’s paradise" in the September 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!