Engaging the Senses: Stand Up Paddle boarding vs. Gym Workouts

Experience the full sensory experience of stand up paddle boarding.

The Full Sensory Experience of Paddle boarding

There is a serene sense of fulfillment that comes from the wholeness of stand up paddle boarding. From the moment you carry your stand up paddle board to the water's edge, there's a distinctive connection to the natural world. You feel the texture of your paddle board under your fingers, the grip of the handle as you hold your SUP paddle, the sensation of the water lapping against your skin, and the subtle rhythm of the waves beneath you. Paddle boarding is a full sensory experience that taps into every aspect of human sensation.

sup paddles and inflatable paddle boards

The act of stand up paddle boarding is about balance, core strength, and the mastery of paddle strokes. Yet, it also invokes an intimate connection with the environment. When you're out on the water, you're part of the seascape, feeling the sun warming your skin and hearing the call of seabirds overhead. As this article highlights, it’s an immersive experience that truly engages all your senses.

Your sight is stimulated by the beauty of nature, the changing hues of water, the sight of marine life below, or perhaps the stunning colors of the sunrise or sunset. The sound of water lapping against your board, the rustle of the wind, or even the silent calm of early morning paddles provides auditory delight. Your sense of smell is not left out either, as the fresh ocean or lake air fills your nostrils.

The Kinesthetic and Proprioceptive Appeal of Paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is a unique combination of strength, balance, and endurance. Your body is constantly adjusting to the movement of the water beneath you, using core strength and proprioception to maintain stability. It's a dynamic, full-body workout that targets everything from your legs to your core to your upper body. According to Glide SUP, the act of balancing on the board alone can provide a solid core workout.

There's a rhythm to paddle boarding, a dance between you, the board, and the water. This rhythm enhances your sense of proprioception, the perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Every stroke of the paddle, every adjustment for balance engages both gross and fine motor skills. Even the feel of the paddle in your hands or the way the board responds to your movements is a sensory experience in its own right.

Comparing Gym Workouts to a Paddle Board Session

personal flotation device and stand up paddle board bag

Gym Workouts: Effective but Limited in Sensory Engagement

Gym workouts can certainly provide an effective way to get fit, offering a variety of equipment and classes to target different muscle groups. However, the experience is usually limited to the physical exertion and internal focus. There is less engagement of the senses, less opportunity to feel connected to the world outside the gym walls.

In the gym, you're often focused on the number of reps, the weight on the bar, or the readouts on the treadmill or elliptical. There's less opportunity to engage with your environment or to connect what you're doing with nature. The sounds are usually those of machines and weights, the smells those of sweat and disinfectant, and the sights are of walls, equipment, and other gym-goers.

The Sensory Enhancement of Stand Up Paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is a sensory-rich fitness experience that engages all five senses in a way that indoor workouts often do not. Glide SUP shares numerous stories and expert advice on the unexpected benefits of paddle boarding, including improved posture and boosted confidence.

When paddle boarding, you have the opportunity to engage your senses and become more mindful of your surroundings. You hear the water and the wildlife, see the sunsets, smell the water, and feel the wind and spray on your skin. It's a form of exercise that also promotes relaxation and stress reduction, going beyond the physical to also benefit mental and emotional health.

While out on you paddle board, your main focus is on your paddle technique and the feeling of the paddle board leash on your ankle as you paddle forward. Paddle boarders typically experience a feeling of Zen as they focus on their paddle stroke on their SUP board.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Beyond Fitness

While the fitness benefits of paddle boarding are impressive, its impact goes beyond physical health. As Glide SUP points out, the activity can also serve as a form of moving meditation, enhancing mental well-being and reducing stress. There's a therapeutic element to being out on the water. You can't help but be present, savoring the moment as you glide through the water. The rhythm of your strokes and the constant, gentle demand for balance can help quiet a busy mind. Moreover, the opportunity to observe nature up close - to see marine life or simply watch the play of light on water - can provide a sense of calm and a mental break from daily stresses.

Building a Community Through Paddle Boards

Paddle boarding also has a powerful social aspect. There are numerous stories about how this sport is helping to bring communities together. From group paddles to charity events, paddle boarding fosters a sense of community. Whether you're navigating the open ocean or a tranquil lake, there's a shared experience that brings people together. This sense of connection enhances the overall experience, making paddle boarding not just a great workout, but also a wonderful way to make friends, share experiences, and build a community.


hard paddle boards and paddle boarding tips

Whether you're a seasoned fitness enthusiast or someone just looking for a new way to get active, stand up paddle boarding offers a unique way to engage your senses and achieve a whole-body workout. While gym workouts certainly have their place in fitness regimens, paddle boarding provides a sensory experience that gyms simply can't match. The simple act of standing on a board and propelling yourself across the water engages your body, mind, and senses in a profound way, connecting you to nature and the world around you.