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A Sport Crafted for Liver Health


Find out the four characteristics of outrigger canoeing that make it a sport with a unique attribute – promoting a healthy liver.

Considered the state sport of Hawaii, outrigger canoe racing is an activity with historical roots in Southeast Asia, Polynesia and New Zealand. Over the past few decades, outrigger canoeing has steadily grown in popularity with recreational and competitive clubs strewn across the United States. While paddling an outrigger canoe may not appeal to everyone, this water sport has a number of features that make it ideal for benefiting liver health.

What Is an Outrigger Canoe?
An outrigger canoe is a type of canoe containing one or more outriggers (lateral support floats) fastened to the side of the boat. Some characteristics of this vessel, include:

·    Compared to other types of canoes, outrigger canoes can move very fast.

·    Most outrigger canoes seat six people, each of whom is important to the boat’s movement.

·    Having an attached outrigger increases the canoe’s stability, which reduces its tendency to capsize in rough water.

Besides the canoe itself being unique, an outrigger’s paddling technique also differs from other non-motor powered boats. Different from kayaking or rowing, the outrigger paddle is single-sided, with either a straight or a double-bend shaft. Because there isn’t a dual paddle arrangement, the paddler has to alternate sides often in order to maintain stamina and stability.

Liver Reasons to Paddle
There are several reasons that outrigger canoeing is a great choice for those wanting to support their liver’s health:

1.    Cardiovascular Exercise – By preventing or even reversing fatty liver disease, and helping ease portal hypertension, cardiovascular exercise helps people maintain a healthy weight and keeps blood flowing freely throughout the body (including the liver). As a vigorous cardiovascular exercise, outrigger canoeing can burn an estimated 400 calories per hour.

2.    Torso Movement – Unlike most sports, outrigger paddling recruits the body’s larger muscle groups in the mid-section – exactly where the liver is housed. Because the strength to power a canoe comes mainly from twisting the torso, there is a great deal of movement in this area. Thus, paddling puts a physical demand on the body’s mid-section, which stimulates the filling and draining of the liver, the natural process necessary for the liver to cleanse the blood.

3.    Optimistic Attitude – Besides its associated physical health benefits, paddling in a river, ocean, bay or lake also initiates a positive mental and emotional shift. An active way to appreciate the outdoors, paddling can be peaceful and meditative or it can be exhilarating. In addition, the breaking of the surface tension of water (by waves, falls or a canoe) releases negative hydrogen ions into the atmosphere. One of the many reported health benefits of negative hydrogen ions is to boost serotonin levels, a surefire way to lift one’s mood.

4.    No Age Limit – Because it is a low-impact activity with a rich cultural history, outrigger canoeing welcomes people of all ages. Not having an age limit can be important to those who have surpassed 30 years of age and want to get involved in a team sport. In fact, competitive outrigger racing is divided into the following categories: “Open,” which includes those aged 20 to 35 (but is open to any age), “Masters,” which includes those aged 35 to 45, “Senior Masters,” which includes those aged 45 to 55 and “Kapuna,” which includes those aged 55 and up.

Outrigger Tips
If outrigger canoeing might be the sport you are looking for, these two suggestions can help guide you further:

1.    Join a Club – The best way to learn about outrigger canoeing is through a local canoe club. Besides learning the proper paddling technique, a club provides the camaraderie inherent to this sport and assures safety issues are addressed.

2.    Brush Up On Swimming – Since paddling involves the occasional tip into the water, it is important to be a competent swimmer. If necessary, brush up on your swimming skills so that you can feel confident in a canoe.

If keeping your liver healthy is a priority and group water sports appeals to you, consider outrigger canoeing. Because it is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise, stimulates liver activity by moving the torso, is known to lift the mood and has no age restriction, paddling in an outrigger canoe is an ultimate activity for taking care of your liver., Outrigger Canoe, Retrieved July 31, 2009, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2009.,2923, Kayak Your Way to Better Health, Retrieved July 31, 2009, North Shore Medical Center, 2009., Canoeing and kayaking - health benefits, Retrieved July 31, 2009, State of Victoria, March 2009., Water generates Negative Ions, Retrieved August 1, 2009,, 2009., Benefits of canoeing and kayaking, Retrieved July 31, 2009, SheKnows LLC, 2009., Dragon Boat Races: breast cancer survivors paddle to prevention, Dalene Entenmann, Retrieved July 31, 2009, Weblogs, Inc., 2009.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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