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The Core Benefits of Stand-up Paddle boarding
By: Scott Coleman (profile)
One of the fastest growing recreational activities in Australia is Stand-up Paddle boarding or SUP. From a physiotherapy perspective, SUP is a great way to strengthen your “core”, improve your upper and lower body strength and conditioning, challenge your balance and control, and improve your fitness - all in one activity!

The term “core stability” has been the catch phrase of the last 10 years for anyone interested in improving their abdominal strength. However, there is so much more to the equation than simply improving abdominal strength. The region between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the pelvis is controlled by a multitude of muscles that act in different directions and different ways. Even the diaphragm plays a role! The action of paddling a SUP activates all of these muscles, due to the need to transfer force from the upper body (in the paddling motion), to the lower body in order to propel the board forward.The prolonged activation of these muscles ultimately results in them becoming stronger and more capable of stabilising the trunk when forces are applied to the body during other sporting activities (such as golf) or activities of daily living. Paddling the SUP is also an aerobic activity meaning the diaphragm and respiratory muscles also get a workout along with the cardiovascular system!

Adequate upper body strength is required in paddling a SUP in order to generate a propulsive force to the paddle in order to move the board through the water. The water provides resistance to the board in the form of friction, and the weight of the board and your body weight need to be overcome in order to move the board forward. The muscles in the lower body also need to be strong in order to stabilise the trunk and upper body. The harder you paddle, the more resistance is felt on the paddle and the greater the strength gains will be!

Proprioception is the term used to describe the brain’s ability to detect movement in joints and their positioning. If an individual has good proprioception, they generally have good balance and control in their movements, and their muscles work more efficiently throughout their movements. The SUP challenges the proprioception of almost every joint in the body. The joints of the upper body need to work together efficiently in order to control the paddle and apply a propulsive force to the water. The joints throughout the trunk need to be stable to allow the force from the upper body to be transferred to the lower body. The joints of the lower body are required to control the balance on the board, not only in the lateral side to side direction to prevent falling off the board, but in the backward / forward direction to prevent falling on your knees or bottom! Therefore prolonged paddling of the SUP can improve overall balance and movement efficiency throughout the body, which can benefit other sporting and work related activities.

Beyond all of these physical benefits, whether you go for a paddle in the surf or calm enclosed waters you just can’t beat being out on the water on a beautiful day. It’s easy to see why the sport is rapidly growing across Australian coastal towns.

For more information on the benefits of SUP, or to arrange a trial paddle contact

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