Is Pedal Boating Good Exercise? (Muscles Worked & Calories Burned)

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Pedal Boating is fun, no doubt about it. But pedal boating can be quite hard as well.

So, in other words, if it’s also good for me that would be the tie-breaker.

What if it was one of the few things in the world that you could have a blast doing and it still made you more eager to take off your shift and flex at the end of the day?

Pedal boating is an excellent form of exercise. It works not only your cardiovascular system but your thighs, glutes, and calves as well. A person who weighs 150 lbs can expect to burn between 4 and 7 calories per minute (330 calories per hour) pedaling at moderate intensity.

How Many Calories Does Pedal Boating Burn?

Pedal boating at a medium speed typically burns 330 calories per hour. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories so, if you want to lose weight, you’ll be pedaling for 10-14 hours to burn the requisite calories.

While this might sound a bit grim, it’s on par with most other pedaling exercises.

Now, most pedal boat rentals charge by the hour and last 1-2 hours unless you extend your time.

When we head out onto the lake with our pedal boat we typically spend 4-5 hours out on the water (depending on if we’re fishing or not). While we’re not pedaling the entire time, we can expect to burn nearly 1,000 calories just from the pedaling!

If you’re looking to be a bit more active, pedal boating is a great way to do it without being bored.

For reference, pedal boating burns almost the exact same number of calories as pedaling on a recumbent bike at the gym. Not to mention the added bonus of getting some sun. Just wear sunscreen!

Coupled with a good diet and other exercises, pedal boating can be excellent for weight loss and increased fitness.

What Muscles Does Pedal Boating Work?

Pedal boating provides focused lower body and cardiovascular exercise. Pedal boating engages and works out many muscles, including:

  • Glutes
  • Calf Muscles
  • Tibialis Anterior (shin muscles)
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps

Recumbent pedaling (such as on a pedal boat) has been shown to have the benefits of resistance training. In a study, older women were able to improve their muscle strength and functional power after only eight weeks of pedaling!

However, it’s not just your leg muscles that benefit from pedal boating. Your cardiovascular system, which is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout your entire body, is improved through exercise. More vigorous forms of exercise tax the cardiovascular system more so, for maximum benefit, pedal hard!

In addition to recruiting a significant number of muscle fibers, pedal boating has several other benefits when compared to other forms of exercise.

3 Additional Benefits Of Pedal Boating

1. Full Back Support

One of the main advantages of pedal boating as an exercise is that you can have full back support at all times. While many pedal boat seats are made of ergonomically shaped hard plastic, buying your own pedal boat allows you to put in foam padding on the seats.

If you are in need of back support during exercise, pedal boating is an excellent option.

2. Reduced Upper Body Fatigue

If your back needs support because you have other upper body issues which prevent other types of exercise, pedaling can be just what you need to try! For example, most types of exercise give me significant shoulder pain but I am able to exercise using a pedal boat with no issues!

3. Built-In Rest Spot

What happens if you’re out for a run and need a rest? Well, hopefully, you carry a chair with you while you run or you’re out of luck.

On a pedal boat, however, you always have a seat with you. As long as you stay close to shore you can be done any time you want. You can either take a rest or return to shore as soon as you get your fill of sun, fun, and exercise.


At the end of the day, most people don’t use a pedal boat just for exercise, it’s just an awesome added benefit that people enjoy! If you’re looking for a way to spend some time on the length while working on your health, forgo the motorboat and try pedal boating instead!