WHEN it comes to total-body toning, the beach is your best friend — or the lake or river, for that matter.
As well as being fun, water sports boast a host of health and fitness benefits, and water-based workouts are crazy-good for improving balance, stamina and building muscle.
We don’t need to remind you that getting outdoors during spring and summer also means you can get a hit of all-important vitamin D too, which helps to maintain healthy bones, regulate insulin levels and keep your immune system ticking over.
So, while you might usually spend a trip to the seaside building sandcastles or lying on a towel with a good book — why not add in an hour or two of adrenaline-pumping activity?
Ireland is surrounded by water and has hundreds of inland lakes and rivers, so we really have no excuse not to make the most of our local scenery.
Whether it’s swimming in wild ponds or boarding through the waves, here are just a few calorie-blitzing water sports and activities to consider...
1. Stand-up paddle boarding
Also known as SUP, stand-up paddle boarding has quickly become the trendiest summer sport of choice for toned celebs — Katy Perry, Jennifer Aniston and Abbey Clancy are all big fans.
SUP is basically a variation on surfing that involves balancing on a board while using a paddle to drive yourself through the water. It might sound easy, but 20 minutes of driving your paddle against the water’s natural resistance is enough to set your arms, shoulders and back on fire.
Almost every muscle in the body is utilised in the effort to stay balanced on the board too, engaging your leg and core muscles alongside the upper body.
As it’s relatively low-impact and gentle though, SUP is a great alternative for runners suffering from ongoing shin splints or athletes recovering from injury, as it provides a full-body workout without putting extra strain on the joints.
Anyone who’s spent an afternoon in a kayak will know that it’s a pretty killer workout for whittling your abs.
Specifically, repetitively paddling from left to right forces the abdomen to twist, creating a similar effect to the brutal Russian Twists you might normally do at the gym.
Kayaking is also a great strength-builder for your arms. Whether you’re an advanced kayaker who’s pounding rapids, or taking it easy on a calm lake, the water’s resistance is a tough workout for the biceps, triceps, shoulders and lats.
There’s a reason why the surfers you often see riding the waves in Cornwall and Devon all have strong and lean physiques.
Not only is the adrenaline-pumping sport a really exhilarating way to wash away stress, but surfing provides an intense upper body and core workout that shreds fat fast — as the sport relies on your ability to paddle against the current and jump up onto the board while you’re in motion.
It’s also a mean cardiovascular workout that pushes your heart into its target zone (65%-85%), which enhances your body’s ability to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscles.
A hybrid of surfing and water-skiing, wakeboarding isn’t for the faint-hearted. The daredevil sport involves trying to stay upright on a short, wide board while being towed along the water by a motorboat. Rubber bindings keep your feet firmly planted on the board, and advanced wakeboarders will throw in some aerial tricks and moves too.
It might sound like the boat is doing all the hard work, but you need a decent level of fitness plus strength to be able to master the skill.
A huge amount of physical demand is placed on the body, engaging your core and stabiliser muscles as you work to bend and balance on the board. While you’re riding, you twist your trunk to chop and change direction with your legs — helping to build mean abdominal strength that will serve you well in other types of sport too.
There aren’t many outdoor sports that will be as demanding on your core as windsurfing. As you cut through the waves, you need to use your entire body to steer yourself in the right direction without toppling over into the water (Expect to feel sore and achy after a day of manoeuvring the mast).
The great thing about windsurfing, though, is that it’s much easier to learn than many other watersports - you can usually get up and running on a large beginner’s board with a small sail in your first lesson.
6. Wild swimming
There’s something seriously addictive about wild swimming; from splashing into a lake on a hot summer’s day to front-crawling alongside bird life, flora and fauna, it can be a great way to wash away stress. As well as being a natural deterrent for stress and anxiety, swimming is a really great total-body workout that can help to build endurance, strength and maintain a healthy weight. Going for dip is also one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise going.
Wild swimming is very different to swimming in a pool though - it’s absolutely vital to be aware of potential dangers like hidden currents, temperature changes and deep areas that may not be noticeable from the surface.
It goes without saying that you should be a strong swimmer, and it’s advisable to take a lesson with a trained instructor, and always take a buddy along before getting into any open body of water.