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Health Benefits of Surfing

From boosting your cardiovascular health to muscle strength, let’s have a look at all the physical health benefits of surfing:

Heart Health

Since you’re paddling out on a board and using your arms, legs, back, and everything else to work your surfing mojo, you’re getting a workout in. All that paddling gets your muscles pumping, allowing your heart’s strength to increase with all the cardio you’re doing. Over time surfing will help lower your blood pressure and your resting heart rate which can result in a decreased risk of strokes, heart attacks, and other diseases.

Strengthen & Tone Muscles

Surfing is an excellent total body workout.

You’ll strengthen:

  • trapezius (traps)

  • rectus abdominis (core or abs)

  • Obliques

  • Biceps

  • Triceps

  • Deltoids

  • Pectoral

  • Rotator cuff

  • Lumbar muscles

  • Legs

  • Bottom

  • Calves

Since you make use of bodyweight in surfing, you’re toning your muscles more than going for a workout in the gym. Although you can train some of the muscles used when paddling, you can’t 100% increase your paddling strength at a gym.


Increase your paddling strength by paddling for about 20 minutes on flat water.

Burn Calories in a Fun Way

Instead of visiting a gym and working out for an hour or so, jump on your surfboard and burn calories as you surf.

Although it depends on the surfer’s body type and other measurements, surfing can burn as much as 130 to 260 calories when surfing for 30 to 60 minutes at a time.

Boost Your Immune System

Studies have shown that regularly immersing your body in cold water (aka the freezing ocean) has major benefits for your body. Cold Therapy helps activate your body’s natural healing powers to help it relive symptoms of various medical conditions. It also improves your immune and lymphatic systems as well as your circulation.

The pressure in cold water is anti-inflammatory and can help ease headaches and pain. No wonder you’re always told to bathe in ice water when you have physical injuries!

Cold Shock

Be careful when going into cold water as it can shock your body by the sudden immersion in cold water.

Vitamin D

Get your dose of D-elightful hormones from your time in the sun. Since you’re spending all that time in the sun when surfing, you’ll obtain vitamin D for your body to help your bones get stronger. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium in your blood.

Sleep Better

Surfing can help improve your sleep quality and help you catch some extra z’s. When you’re outside, the melatonin in your increases and this hormone is responsible for healthy sleep.

Since surfing physically wipes you out from all that exercising, you’ll fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer. The exhaustion will help you get into a deeper sleep to ensure your muscles get repaired from all that activity.

Better Balance & Flexibility

Standing up on your board and staying there requires loads of balance, another benefit of surfing is it improves your balance immensely.

Another benefit of taking up surfing is increased flexibility. As you almost do yoga-like positions to get on top of your board, surfing requires some flexibility on your part. Being flexible also helps prevent injuries on and off your board.

Healthy Skin & Hair

Free whole body facial and detox anyone? Since the ocean is full of saltwater, you’ll get a natural exfoliant making your skin, hair, and scalp oh-so-smooth. Plus, the saltwater can help detox harmful chemicals and air pollution from your body.

In fact, loads of skincare products make use of saltwater and seaweed. Why buy products when you can reap benefits directly from the source?

Train Your Brain

According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise improves memory by stimulating certain chemicals in the brain, which, in turn, help new blood vessels to grow and brain cells to survive. It also improves sleep and mood, and reduces stress and anxiety. The same happens when you surf – the brain gets a good shot of some cool chemicals.

This cocktail of chemicals helps you stay focused. Not only that, but it also makes you feel happy. Therefore, it is safe to say that surfing is a strong mood enhancer. Each great feat of catching a new wave is rewarded accordingly, with a rush of neurochemicals that lead to a state of euphoria, often associated with the term “runner’s high.”

Let’s take a look at some of the chemicals being released:

Adrenaline – In medical terms, this is called epinephrine, and is being produced by the adrenal glands in response to danger and fear. There is another hormone, very similar to adrenaline, called norepinephrine, which is produced by the brain. Just like adrenaline, it triggers the fight-or-flight response, increasing the heart rate, the breathing rate, and the blood flow, helping you deal with stressful situations.

Serotonin – Also known as the “happy chemical,” this neurotransmitter is responsible for our mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression, and higher levels of this mood enhancer reduce stress and increase your overall confidence. It is also responsible for that stoke you experience during and after a surf session.

Endorphins – These feel-good chemicals are often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers, masking pain and discomfort, and helping you power through any situation. Release of endorphins is also linked to a state of euphoria. In fact, surfing is used in rehab facilities, where the high from drugs and alcohol is replaced with the endorphin rush one experiences when riding a wave.

Dopamine – Even more powerful than endorphins, this neurotransmitter controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The anticipation before a surf session releases dopamine, with incredibly high amounts being produced as the result of an unexpected success, such as catching your first wave or riding that gnarly peak you never thought you could. Dopamine is associated with addiction because it keeps you coming back for more.

Mental Health Benefits of Surfing

Now that we’ve covered the physical health benefits of surfing, let’s have a look at some of its mental benefits...

According to a report, people suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) saw improvement with a bit of surf therapy incorporated into their daily activities. So as it seems, surfing doesn’t just have a high impact on your physical well-being but on your mental health as well.

Deal with Stress & Get Rid of Tension

With so many factors contributing to stress in today’s busy world, whether it’s about money or relationships, stress can have some nasty effects on the mind and body. Constantly feeling overwhelmed or anxious is nobody's cup of tea.

Surfing can have wonderful effects on the mind as it’s a combination of working out, being outside in the sunshine, and having fun. Doing all this helps your body release cortisol and feel-good endorphins (dopamine or L-theanine) which are linked to improving your mood and even easing pain.

A surfing session will guarantee a zen moment when you feel like the world is caving in on you or you just need a quick escape.

Improve Confidence and Build Self Love

Taking the time to teach yourself a new skill, like surfing, can help boost your confidence by proving to yourself that you can achieve the goals you set.

You’ll also build some self-love as you experience the amazing things your body can accomplish, whether that’s surfing like a pro or even just standing up on your board as the wave takes you to shore.

Meet New People

The ocean is massive and there are thousands of surfers out there catching the waves, so meeting new people is a given.

This is a great benefit if you’re not always keen on going surfing on your own. Now you can call up your new, fellow surfer friends and spend your day in the water, having a blast!

If you’re too shy or feel the ice is impossible to break, and you’re a newbie, you are bound to either drop in on someone’s wave or crashing into them, which will guarantee a conversation to spark.

Want to get all the benefits of surfing and become part of the surfing community? Why not start with some surfing lessons? At Sugar Surf Cape Cod, we have lessons available for any occasion, from group to private & surf camps. Get in touch to start your surf experience today.

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