Saturday, October 18, 2014


Credit: From Nige Ayers, camping near Surlingham Ferry
Pub.  You can enjoy his blog, "Canoe and Trail Outdoor
You’ve done it a thousand times. You’re paddling along watching for birds, wildlife, obstructions in the water, other traffic, which all keep your mind occupied. Then you hit an open stretch where nothing is happening, and your mind suddenly turns inward. It was during one of these meditative sessions that I started thinking again about exercise. How much good is my paddling doing me beyond the pleasure of the time on the water? How long and how often do I need to exercise for my body to reap any benefits?

There are a couple tricks to keep ‘exercise’ from becoming a dirty word. Vary the activities so you don’t get bored, have a companion, which makes time go faster and makes you accountable to someone else, play a game or make it a game by competing with someone else, keep a chart of your stats, add music, or if exercising inside, do it in front of the TV so your mind doesn’t dwell on your body, reward yourself with new shoes, fitness gear, or even paddling gear when you reach a goal.

I was thinking of basic activities that nearly anyone can do, can be aerobic, and are fun. Paddling certainly qualifies, but what if the wind is blowing a gale. The next thing would be to move off the water and ride a bike. Here in NW Oklahoma, however, it is not uncommon that there’s too much wind to even stay upright on a bike, so that leaves walking. No, plodding, that would make it three P’s---paddling, peddling, and plodding. So, how much is needed?

Most agree that a caloric burn of 3,500 calories is equal to one pound of body weight. Assuming we don’t reward our workouts with sodas or extra food intake, but also try to cut the calories we consume, that comes roughly to a loss of 2.6 pounds/month or 31 pounds a year. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? To get that, we should walk an additional 3 miles a day over our current exercise level. So, 3 miles a day for a month would be 90 miles a month, but since we’re hopping on the bike some of the time, let’s just go with a round 100 miles a month, whether paddling, peddling, or plodding. Taadaa! 3-P-100, an easily attainable goal with any determination, and with exercising variety worked in. Then, if we can’t get on the water, or we miss a couple days of walking, just hop on the bike and crank out some fast miles to make up the deficit.

There is confusion over exercise and calorie burn levels, so I researched Harvard Medical, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and a couple others, and this is a distillation of what I learned. The first obvious thing is that we need to get out and move around for anything worthwhile to happen, and it needs to be aerobic. Running down the road to a creek and stopping to watch the turtles while our heart, respiration, and body return to baseline values doesn’t do anything. The issue is how long we keep the body working and the vital signs elevated. It doesn’t need to last for hours, but it does need to be vigorous enough to raise the heart rate, increase the rate of breathing, and break a sweat. We’re all guilty of wanting to look for an easy out. I was looking at one exercise chart that listed caloric burn rates for things like dusting furniture, doing laundry, shopping, and even brushing teeth and bird watching. We’re kidding ourselves. Unless we’re brushing our teeth vigorously for five hours a day or chasing the birds and trying to catch them with our bare hands, we’re just being silly. Yes, even breathing burns calories. If you lay in bed all day and never get up, calories are still burned to fuel the body, but the levels are so low, and the muscle toning benefit for the heart and lungs is totally lacking. Nothing is being accomplished to maintain proper health. For that we need five hours of exercise a week, with at least two of those being some form of strength training. If you want to lose weight, more time needs to be added to meet the levels above.

The next cop-out is that our busy schedule doesn’t permit time for exercising. Five hours sounds like a lot of time, unless we’re indeed on the water, so some sources break it into 300 minutes a week. It sounds better. And, if you can’t take off an hour for exercise, do it in 10-15 minute blocks, but count only the time after you’re breathing heavy and the ol’ ticker is thumping. The short spurts of strenuous activity reduce blood pressure. Another trick is to take part of our walk, a mile or more, right after dinner. This reduces the formation of fats and triglycerides.

Caloric burns vary according to the level of exertion, body weight, and age. For example, as a guideline, if we canoe at 3mph, we will burn 413 calories an hour for a body weight of 130 lbs, to 651 calories for a paddler of 205 lbs. There was no breakout of kayaking, but maintaining a moderate rate will produce just slightly lower results. You’ll just go faster with a bit less effort. For peddling at 10 mph, rates will run between 236 and 372 calories for the same body weights. For walking at 3 mph, the figures come out to 195 to 307 calories an hour, again for the respective weights. For your own weight, you can do a Google search, or better yet, practice a little algebra.

I hope you’ll give it a try. 3-P-100. You don’t even need extra gear, like a pedometer. Just reach in the pack and grab the GPS, and you’re all set.


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