7 Summertime Water Sports to Get in Shape & Cool Off

Water sports — like swimsuits and barbeques — are a cornerstone of summertime. Whether you’re teaming up for a game of pool volleyball or deep-diving coral reefs, water sports are a fun way to enjoy the summer sun. But beyond the entertainment and vitamin D, water sports are also a sneaky way to stay in shape — or at least compensate for the calorie-laden barbeque food — without ever having to grunt or grimace in the gym.

So, if you’re looking to stay in shape as you soak up vitamin D this swimsuit season, we have you covered! Here are seven of the top water sports to help you stay fit (and cool) this swimsuit season:

1. Scuba Diving

Calories Burned (per hour): 413 to 604*

7 Summertime Water Sports to Get in Shape & Cool Off - Scuba Diving
If you had to double-take that number listed above, you’re not alone! While this water sport may appear to be as physically taxing as a stroll in the park, it’s more comparable to a fast-paced jog. Although your movements are slower underwater, the additional resistance requires more energy than meets the eye.

Plus, if you’re diving from the shore, you also have to lug that heavy gear to the water! That said, once you’re 20-feet down there are few experiences as serene as the new world you’ll encounter. It’s the perfect example of a physically demanding, yet invigorating summer activity.

2. Kayaking

Calories Burned (per hour): 295 to 431*

7 Summertime Water Sports to Get in Shape & Cool Off - Kayaking
Kayaking is an awesome outdoor summer workout that challenges your body in multiple ways. Paddling against the waters’ natural resistance while maintaining your balance requires both core and upper-body strength and stamina. As such, regular kayaking can help improve your posture, balance and muscle performance.

Kayaking regularly can also help improve your aerobic fitness, although not quite to the extent of more vigorous types of cardiovascular exercise. [1] [2]

3. Surfing

Calories Burned (per hour): 177 to 259*

7 Summertime Water Sports to Get in Shape & Cool Off - Surfing
If you think sitting on a surfboard waiting for a new set of waves sounds more relaxing than taxing, you’re correct. But it’s not the time spent sitting on a surfboard that makes surfing such a great summer workout, it’s the effort it takes to paddle out.

While it may appear easy from the shoreline, paddling out on a surfboard requires a significant amount of strength. As a result, it can help build upper-body strength, especially in your lats (the largest muscle group on your back). What’s more, one single 30-minute bout of surfing can help increase tranquility, putting you in a summertime state of mind! [3] [4]

4. Wakeboarding & Waterskiing

Calories Burned (per hour): 360 to 532*

7 Summertime Water Sports to Get in Shape & Cool Off - Wakeboarding
Yet another deceptively taxing summer sport, wakeboarding and waterskiing are excellent summertime workouts. After all, gliding at high-speeds on top of the water as you navigate boat wakes isn’t easy. In fact, it usually takes the better part of an afternoon for beginners to get the hang of this summertime water sport. It can be a physically challenging core workout. As such, consistently wakeboarding or waterskiing can help increase your core strength and coordination.

5. SUP (Stand-Up Paddle) Boarding

Calories Burned (per hour): 623 to 735*

Stand-up Paddle Boarding - SUP
Originating in Hawaii in the 1950s, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) is a mashup of surfing and paddling. Recently SUP has drastically grown in popularity, with some fitness instructors even teaching yoga classes on SUP boards. In addition to being an awesome acronym, SUP is also an incredible workout.

Standing upright on a floating paddleboard while continuously paddling against the natural resistance of the water can be physically challenging. As such, regular paddle boarding can help increase core strength and aerobic fitness. It has also shown to enhance mental well-being and overall quality of life! [5] [6]

6. Whitewater Rafting

Calories Burned (per hour): 295 to 431*

Whitewater Rafting
If your summer travels include a trip to the mountains, there will likely be no shortage of opportunities to stay active outdoors. But high altitudes also mean more intense heat. As such, whitewater rafting is an ideal way to torch calories while staying cool. It’s also an excellent team-building workout that can help improve relaxation, nature, and appreciation. [7] [8]

7. Windsurfing

Calories Burned (per hour): 177 to 259*

Take a drive down Pacific Coast Highway during the summertime, and you’re likely to see the occasional windsurfer, or board sailor, in the water. While not as mainstream as surfing, this board-based water sport is still a great high-intensity endurance workout on par with activities, such as rowing.

What’s more, the aerobic intensity increases substantially in low-wind conditions due to the need to “pump,” a maneuver that requires you or push and pull the sail rhythmically to maintain momentum. It’s also an Olympic sport, which lends further credibility to its physical demands. [9] [10]

*Note: The number of calories burned per hour listed above vary depending on your body weight. They are based on a body weight range of 130 to 190 pounds. [11]


[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
[2] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc
[3] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed
[4] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc
[5] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
[6] www.supconnect.com
[7] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
[8] www.psychologytoday.com
[9] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
[10] www.sciencedirect.com
[11] www.dhs.wisconsin.gov

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written by

James Gardikas

James Gardikas

Contributing Writer