Is Sailing Relaxing Or Physically Demanding? (Explained)

For some people, sailing conjures up relaxing and glamourous images of sipping cocktails or champagne on deck at sunset. For others, especially those who have an interest in racing, their sailing experiences can be quite grueling and physically demanding.

For most of us, though, sailing has many benefits for both the body and the mind:

Here’s How Relaxing & Demanding Sailing Can Be:

Sailing can be both relaxing and physically demanding. Sailing does require fitness and agility, whether you’re racing around buoys or cruising around the bay. Racers in particular need to be fit and fast. Most causal sailors can get by with only some major physical effort.

Do You Need To Be In Good Shape To Sail?

The level of physical fitness required for sailing can vary greatly. From a sunset cruise around the bay to a professional racing crew member, there’s a different fitness level suitable for every sailor.

Nowadays, there are sailing programs for children and the physically challenged, so the degree of being in good shape to sail is debatable. However, I think we can all agree that sailing requires an overall feeling of good health and sometimes a specific focus on enhancing certain physical traits to help you deal with the type of sailing you choose.

Bear in mind that different size boats and certain sailing situations will demand different physical capabilities. Being able to meet the physical demands of sailing will help keep yourself, the boat, and your fellow crew members safe while underway.

The fitness aspects involved in sailing include being agile, having balance, coordination, strength, flexibility, and even cardiovascular health. Even if you are a passenger and not an active crew member, you will still feel the effects of keeping your balance on the water.

Is Sailing Leisure Or Workout?

There are 2 types of sailing – racing and cruising.

As the names suggest, racing is more of a workout, and cruising is more for leisure:


Yacht racing can be a physically demanding sport, and most, if not all, professional sailors will stick to a rigorous workout routine. But even if you are not a professional, you will still need a certain fitness level to compete.

A yacht race can be a fun weekly club event or a regatta that can take place over several days. The class can be a single-hander, double-hander, or even a team event.

While tactics can play a part in whichever discipline you compete in, yacht racing will give you a workout.


Cruising and daysailing are recreational forms of sailing that do not involve racing. Daysailing around the bay or extended cruises while traveling from place to place is purely for pleasure or leisure.

While there is a certain amount of physical activity involved, once the sails are set and as long as the weather stays stable, you can go for hours, if not days, without adjusting anything.

Cruising can become a lifestyle, with many people enjoying the spiritual side of sailing at their leisure.

Are Smaller Sailboats More Physically Demanding To Sail?

The skills you learn for sailing smaller boats are easily transferrable to larger boats, but everything increases in size. So you might think that larger boats with their larger sails will be more physically demanding to sail.

However, smaller boats are lighter and react faster to the steering and movement within the boat, so they can be physically demanding to sail.

In addition, small yachts or dinghies are known for capsizing, and the captain or crew has to know how to swim around and ‘right’ their boat (which is all part of the sail training). Larger boats have keels that prevent them from capsizing in all but the most extreme set of circumstances.

Things can happen much faster on smaller boats than on larger boats, and dinghy sailing can be called energetic. However, any sailing can become physically demanding. Sailing techniques vary according to the type and size of the boat and the weather.

Sailing a small boat in light wind conditions can be very relaxing, but sailing a small boat can become physically demanding to get back into port if the wind increases.

What Type Of Sailboat Is Easiest To Manoeuver?

Smaller boats are quick to set up and easy to maneuver as they are lightweight and very responsive. 

Smaller boats are mainly steered by using a tiller to direct the rudder – you can gently push or pull the tiller extension either port or starboard to steer the boat. Steering using a tiller can take a little time to learn.

Bigger boats are generally slower to respond, so manoeuvering in confined places such as a marina can become tricky and need to be planned. 

Good communication with your crew members is an absolute necessity. But bigger boats often come with a wheel instead of a tiller, which most people are more familiar with using.

Even larger sailboats will often come with bow and stern thrusters, making maneuvering these bigger vessels much easier, even in confined spaces.

As a general rule, the smaller and lighter a boat, the easier it is to manoeuver, even if you have to jump out and stop the boat yourself! 

Is Sailing Considered A Workout?

No matter which type of sailing you do, sailing will give you a thorough workout. There’s plenty of opportunity for activity, from throwing mooring lines when leaving the dock to hoisting and trimming the sails when on the water.

While sailing is mostly thought of as a hobby or something relaxing, it can be much tougher than many think. Sailors need to use their strength, agility, and endurance to operate a boat. Plus, if conditions turn bad and you’re battling against the natural elements, it can turn out to be a major workout.

Sailing provides an all-round work out which helps to improve the following:

Improves Agility and Flexibility:

All the different tasks that go with sailing will help to improve your agility and flexibility.

From activities like throwing lines to winching, or even just moving around on a boat, can all significantly improve your coordination and ability to move around quickly and easily on land too.

It Helps to Improve your Balance:

With the constant need to keep your balance on a boat, you will, even subconsciously, activate your inner core muscles to help keep you steady. 

Strengthening your inner core helps you keep your balance when sailing but also helps to provide you with better stability and stronger posture when carrying out other daily chores.

Helps to Build Strength:

All that pulling and winching when hoisting, trimming, or changing sails helps develop muscle strength in your arms, shoulders, and back.

Sailing can give you a light cardiovascular workout – sailing, especially competitive sailing, will help to improve your cardiovascular health. 

Not many people associate sailing with a cardio workout. Still, sailing and other associated activities like swimming, snorkeling, or rowing your tender can help to strengthen your heart and lungs, increase your metabolic rate and help with weight loss.

This team-building sport or activity can seriously help you get fit and healthy while having fun in the open air. All this makes sailing a fantastic sport that gives you an awesome all-over workout without even realizing it!

Final Thoughts

While sailing can be either relaxing or physically demanding, there’s no denying that the environmental factors have additional health benefits for sailors. 

Saltwater has long been believed to have many benefits, so spending time in and around salty or seawater can be great for your skin and your sense of well-being.

Just being around the sea can be very soothing for your mind. Sea air has been discovered to be full of negative ions, which have been found to increase serotonin in the body, relieving stress and depression, and even boost your energy.


Do You Need To Be Physically Fit To Sail?

4 Reasons Sailing Is The Best Work Out

Was this article helpful? Like Dislike

Click to share...

Did you find wrong information or was something missing?
We would love to hear your thoughts! (PS: We read ALL feedback)