For the average person, starting your day can be a struggle. Many of us turn to caffeine or other means of boosting our energy levels, but did you know that paddling provides a host of benefits that start your day off right?

Lucky for us, the Susquehanna River offers a close-to-home outlet for those seeking to hit the water for an early morning paddle. Whether you prefer to kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard, here are some great incentives to roll out of bed and into a boat to kick off your day. It might just make you a morning person!

Reduce Stress & Stimulate the Mind

Early morning activity has been shown to invigorate and stimulate your mind. A study by Frontiers in Psychology concluded that being active outdoors for just 20 minutes a day has been linked to a reduction in stress levels, which in turn helps to strengthen your mental health for the day. Studies by the American Psychological Association further show that nature can help increase focus and attention and improve your mood—all things that can help ensure a positive start to your day.

Paddling in the morning before work is a great way to spend that active time in nature and helps you reap the benefits right at the beginning of the day. The sounds of nature and the serenity of the river make for a perfect headspace to compose yourself and start your day off right. Plus, this gradual rousing of the mind will help your brain focus more easily as you embark on your tasks later into the afternoon and evening.

Benefits for Your Body

While morning exercise can seem daunting to beginners, paddling is an exercise that helps you target specific muscle groups and relieve tension in your joints. This makes activities like kayaking and canoeing great for slowly waking up the body while also providing the benefits of any other morning exercise. Additionally, according to University Health, morning exercise has been linked healthier eating habits throughout the day, which in turn boost your energy levels, lower your risk for diabetes, and improve your sleep.

While the specific impact that paddling has on the body varies from person to person, on average, 30 minutes of paddling can burn anywhere from 150 – 210 calories, according to a study by Harvard Health Publishing. Try interval training whereby you interlace a steady paddling rhythm with bursts of speed to get your heart pumping. Not into a heart pumping sprint early in the morning? Try a meditative, slow pace to stretch your limbs and soothe your mind. Either method offers a great way to wake up your limbs and thrive on the benefits that morning exercise can have on your body.

Get Your Exercise Out of the Way

As days get busier and busier, shifting your exercise routine to the morning allows you more free time to spend your evening after the day is done. Whether you want to enjoy a nice dinner, quality time with family, read a book, watch your favorite television show, or just wind down, getting that morning exercise out of the way will offer you an evening that is completely yours.

The nice thing about choosing a paddle for your morning exercise is that the time spent exercising in the morning becomes yours as well. Rather than counting those calories and mileage numbers on a machine, you can take in the sights and sounds of nature. You get the exercise out of the way and can enjoy the view while doing it.

Avoid Peak Boat Traffic

Photo by William E Anderson

Paddling in the middle of the day or after work tends to overlap with higher levels of boat traffic at the launch and on the water. You may encounter other kayakers, jet skis, fishermen, and motorized boats zipping around creating wakes.

The morning is a more fulfilling time to paddle because it allows you to avoid the crowds and noise that comes along with it. With less people out on the water, the morning provides a more peaceful experience for paddlers. You can spend more time enjoying your surroundings and less time worrying about getting your boat in and out of the water and navigating around other boat traffic.

See More Wildlife

Photo by Rita Scholl

The midday sun of summer tends to drive away wildlife, which can make it less likely for you to see animals on your afternoon adventures. As such, most wildlife are active at the cooler times of the day—both in the early morning and late evening. Getting up a little earlier for a morning paddle not only offers a chance to encounter wildlife during their most active time of day, but also allows the opportunity to sight species unique to the river ecosystem.

As you embark on your morning excursions, look and listen for the native critters of the Susquehanna Greenway. A rustle on the shore could be a doe and her fawn foraging for breakfast; a glint in the trees could be the white head of a bald eagle on the lookout for its morning catch. It’s not uncommon to see a variety of birds, rabbits, beavers, red fox and other species along the banks of the Susquehanna River during these early morning hours. A wildlife sighting can make a morning paddle truly memorable. The early paddler gets to see the early bird catch the worm!

Start Paddling!

So, take advantage of the early morning hours and get out on the Susquehanna Greenway. A paddle in the morning is a great chance to reap the physical and mental benefits of outdoor exercise, and it is also a unique time to experience the river—when it’s less crowded with people and more alive with wildlife.

Need a paddle route? Explore SGP’s Water Trails page for recommendations along your neck of the river.

The Susquehanna Greenway is a corridor of connected trails, parks, river access points, and communities, linking people to the natural and cultural treasures of the Susquehanna River within Pennsylvania. The mission of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership is to continue to grow the Greenway by building connections along the Susquehanna River, inspiring people to engage with the outdoors, and transforming communities into places where people want to live, work, and explore.