paddlers at Sleeping Giant

8 ways paddling can improve your health

Just when we thought nothing could top the “good for you” news about chocolate…

…research shows that paddling is good not only for our physical health, but for our mental health as well!

Here are some of the benefits that will have you reaching for your paddle:

Graphic on paddling

Benefits for your brain

Lowers stress levels: Being out on the water has a calming effect on the brain and can help lower stress levels.

Rondeau paddlers

Boosts your mood: Regular paddling can help lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Builds confidence: Set paddling goals! Overcoming challenges builds confidence, whether you are a beginner tuning up your j-stroke, or a paddling pro on a backcountry dream trip.

Benefits for your body

Works the upper body: Increase muscle strength, particularly in the back, arms, shoulders and chest, from moving the paddle against the natural resistance of the water.


Increases core strength: With each paddle stroke forward you rotate your torso, which really engages the core muscles. These muscles also help to balance your canoe/kayak.

Increases leg strength: Kayakers receive the additional benefit of increased leg strength through isometric contractions. You apply pressure with your legs as you turn and balance your kayak which causes these muscles to tighten and, over time, builds strength.


Protects your joints: Paddling is a low-impact activity, which reduces the risk of wear and tear on joints compared to many other activities.

Improves cardiovascular health: Paddling is a great exercise to elevate the heart rate and improve cardiovascular health.

Paddling in parks

Ontario Parks features endless paddling opportunities. Explore a marsh, meander down a river, or plan a whitewater adventure!

Over 75 parks rent canoes, kayaks and SUPs, making your paddle planning even easier!

Gear up for trips to:

Quetico Provincial Park

Quetico paddler

Located in Northwestern Ontario, Quetico is renowned for its rugged beauty. With its towering rock cliffs, majestic waterfalls, virgin pine and spruce forests, picturesque rivers and lakes, Quetico is considered a paddler’s paradise.

Esker Lakes Provincial Park

canoe on misty lake

Located in Northeastern Ontario, Esker Lakes offers a collection of quiet, picturesque lakes, ideal for canoeing. There are about 15 km of canoe routes and a canoe launching site on Panagapka Lake. There are many different options when paddling these lakes, with plenty of side trips available. Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially near the many wetlands. Canoe rentals are available in the park.

Algonquin Provincial Park

canoe beside lake

Algonquin offers the paddling enthusiast over 2,100 km of canoe routes. A detailed map-brochure, Canoe Routes of Algonquin Park shows the entire park network of canoe routes, portages, and interior campsites. A copy of this map can be purchased for $4.95 from the Friends of Algonquin Park. Two outfitters are located within the park that offer canoe and kayak rentals.

Awenda Provincial Park 


Awenda’s Kettle’s Lake is a small, motorboat-free lake ideally suited for the novice paddler or nature enthusiast. Canoe rentals are available in the park.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

Bon Echo paddlers

Bon Echo offers a range of paddling options, from the difficult 21 km Kishkebus canoe route to a relaxing paddle on Joe Perry and Pearson Lakes (both motorboat-free). Paddlers can also explore Mazinaw Lake and view one of Canada’s largest visible collections of Aboriginal pictographs on Mazinaw Rock.  Canoe rentals are available in the park.

Find a paddling route near you

For more information on paddling in parks, check out the “Activities” tab on the individual park pages or learn more about paddling in Ontario Parks here.

You can also search for parks with paddling opportunities near you using the Park Locator Tool.

Healthy Parks, Healthy People

Healthy Parks Healthy People logoResearch shows that spending time in nature is good for our physical and mental health, and paddling is just one of the ways to include more nature in our lives. This is why Ontario Parks has embraced the worldwide Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement which encourages everyone to spend more time in nature.

In celebration of the Healthy Parks Healthy People movement, Ontario Parks is offering FREE day use at all Ontario Parks on July 16, 2021, the perfect time to try out a new paddling route.