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Paddle Boarding for a Great Core

Paddle Boarding – Fun to the Core!


Sometimes you just have to change it up or life just gets boring. Paddle Boarding?

That was the case on a recent Monday morning. I’m usually off at this time and either do errands or try to do something for myself, like take a yoga class. I had tried paddle boarding a year ago but hadn’t been able to go this summer. Now, with my children back in school, I wanted to make it happen. Fortunately I have a friend who can be spontaneous and within an hour she met me at a near-by lake where we rented paddle boards.  It was glorious! The sun was shining; the temperature warm and I had no one to be responsible for but myself.

Paddle Boarding for a Great Core!

Paddle Boarding for a Great Core!

It had been at least a year since my friend Lois had been on a paddle board too. So we were a little shaky and feeling like toddlers when we began climbing aboard, but there was nothing to worry about. Like riding a bicycle, we got on top and teetered slightly gaining our water legs and quickly coming to a full stand. Soon we were gliding across the lake gaining confidence as we came upon some other ladies, also enjoying the kids’ return to school. They told us they did this every year together when school started. This time they brought a first timer, Roxanne who looked a bit stiff standing on her board; obviously afraid the wrong shift in weight might send her into the water. She said she was really enjoying it and was still dry. The other veterans looked more at ease as they chatted or lounged on their boards soaking in the sun.

They said they weren’t fitness enthusiasts but paddle boarding was a good workout without breathing heavy.


We met some other people on the lake. Some first time, some regulars. A few were night workers with the morning off. They were people without gym memberships who liked being outdoors. None specifically came looking for exercise but were feeling the work in the core as they balanced and used the strength of the upper body to propel themselves forward.

Paddle Boarding Fun!

Paddle Boarding Fun!

Mention paddle boarding or more specifically Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP), and most people are very intrigued by the idea. Yet, exercise does not come to mind. In fact, it is a great overall body workout that specifically utilizes the core. If you read my last blog explaining the importance of a strong core for good posture, fewer back problems and overall better quality of life you might be thinking of ways you can strengthen those muscles.

The core muscles stabilize the entire body giving you power as you use your arms and legs. They run along the spine and torso between the shoulders and pelvis and make it possible to stand, balance and shift body weight.

Are you starting to imagine how paddling on a board in the water might really use these muscles?

Your feet and ankles are very engaged as you grip the board with your toes and flex your ankles for support. Your core muscles must react and anchor your body as your arms reach with the paddle and the biceps, triceps and shoulders pull the water to propel the board forward. The spine uses flexibility and strength to rotate the spine with force similar to a golfer or tennis player.

Standing on a board and paddling through the water has been practiced by Hawaiians for ages. SUP came into the general consciousness back in the 90’s when on a calm day on the water some surfers grabbed paddles to get around on their surfboards.

A good way to begin on the board is to start off in shallow water and mount the board on your knees. You can start to engage your core and find your balance this way. As you get more comfortable you can then try to stand. You’ll feel very wobbly because the surface is so unstable. But if you engage those core muscles mentioned above by tightening the abs, slightly squeezing the butt and pulling the shoulders back you’ll start to feel more confident.

The best part about paddle boarding for exercise is it’s low impact and easy on the joints and ligaments. For a little more intensity try doing it on the ocean while navigating waves.

I hear many excuses why people don’t want to try this or that activity. With paddle boarding the only acceptable “I can’t” is for swimming or fear of the water. But if you ask my friend Coco you might not have to worry so much about that. She invited me to try paddle boarding, packed her phone in her fanny-pack lifesaver and waited until we were in the middle of the lake to mention she couldn’t swim. That’s confidence. She never fell in the water either.

No matter how well you swim or whether paddle boarding on a lake or ocean a life jacket is always recommended. Usually you’ll never make a stroke or kick as the whole point is to stay upright on the board.

If you are intimidated or find yoga and Pilates, a major core workout, too slow give paddle boarding a try. You can do it with your family and friends and feel like you’re on vacation.

If you feel like you need to work up to this leisurely sport, I recommend doing some balancing type exercises using a stability ball or BOSU trainer. These are tools used to train the core and are similar to the instability you’ll find on the water.

Here are a few ideas:

Stability Ball Plank and Push-up:

Using a stability ball grip the ball with your hands and walk your body out into a plank. Start by repeating this 8-10 times. Eventually hold the plank longer. You can still progress to doing push-ups in the plank position or slightly lifting one leg at a time for 8 repetitions. This will target your core muscles and upper body.


BOSU Balance:

Stand on a BOSU and once your feel comfortable practice balancing on one leg at a time. Progress to one leg squats. You can next grab dumb bells and add biceps curl and overhead triceps extensions. Balancing will strengthen the feet, ankles and legs as well as the core. Adding the weights will prepare the arms for paddling.



While sitting on a BOSU holding a medicine ball, bend your knees and plant your heels on the floor. Recline into a curved spine and sit-up reaching the ball forward. Next progress the exercise to bringing the ball to a side hip when you recline alternating each side simulating rowing. This will strengthen the abdominal areas and spine for rotating.

Make sure you check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. Once you get the OK, give it a try and have FUN!


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Davida Wright Galvin

Davida is a fitness professional and former award winning health and science television reporter. As a mother and wife she juggles the daily challenges of raising three children, working and staying active. She likes to make fitness fun and helping people find joy in exercise so we can cure the obesity epidemic in our country. UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, BACHELOR OF ARTS, Journalism; Certifications (Present and Past): AFAA Group Training, BodyPump, Zumba, Balletone, SCW Personal Training Certification, Turbo Kickboxing, YMCA Personal Training Certification, Vegas Stiletto Fitness, Reebok Core Board Training Certification, CPR/AED & Infant CPR; YMCA Fitness Instructor Certification




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