The official first day of summer isn't until Friday, but I sure can't tell the difference.

The official first day of summer isn't until Friday, but I sure can't tell the difference.

It feels like summer, it smells like summer, the kids are out of school, so as far as I'm concerned, it is summer. And because of that, many fun activities come to mind. Going to the pool or water park, heading out for a fun day at the lake, or one of my favorite summertime activities, going on a canoe trip, are just some of the fun things that I think of when I think of summer.

Summer is one of my favorite times of year. Why you ask? I just love to be outdoors, near some type of open body of water, soaking up the sun during the hot summer days. As mentioned, going canoeing, or "floating" as I like to call it, is definitely one of my favorite activities.

Canoeing, kayaking and rafting are not only fun, but can be a great way to fit some exercise into your summer activities. In order to get where you want to go while canoeing, kayaking, or rafting, you have to paddle, which is where the exercise comes in and paddling is great exercise. Not only is it aerobic exercise which means you're increasing your heart rate, but it's also a great upper body workout as well.

There are a variety of muscles being used during paddling. Those muscles include core muscles referring to your abdominal and back muscles, the trapezius, which is the large muscle that spans your back, shoulders and neck, the deltoids, which are shoulder muscles and the opposing muscles, triceps and biceps. The tricep is the long muscle on the back of the upper arm, and the bicep is on the front side of the upper arm. So, as you can see, paddling is a great upper body workout.

The amount of calories you burn while paddling depends on how hard you are working. According to, a 155-pound person can burn approximately 281 calories during an hour of relaxed canoeing. So if you take a four to five hour canoe trip those calories can add up. The more you paddle, and depending on the type of water can also affect calories burned. In terms of kayaking, stated a "155-pound person will burn about 352 calories in an hour at medium speed."

There are several great rivers and creeks in our four-state area that are perfect for canoeing, kayaking, or rafting. One of my favorites is Elk River in Pineville and Noel. I encourage you to visit for a complete listing of all of Missouri's rivers and creeks good for canoeing.

Always remember to be safe while on the creek or river. Water safety should be your No. 1 priority. Also, wear proper footwear, carry appropriate flotation devices, stay hydrated and lather on the sunscreen to help prevent sunburn. Have a fun and safe summer!

Sarah Sonis is program director for the Freeman Southwest Family YMCA.