Many people wonder if karting is a good form of exercise. After all, how hard can it be to just drive around a racetrack for 20 minutes at a time? People drive every day, and that is certainly not considered good exercise, right?
The truth is that karting is great exercise. The physical effort required in order to drive a kart is really demanding. It elevates your heart rate (cardio), exposes you to G-forces (strength), and requires a large amount of physical output from the driver.
Most of the time after a day of karting, especially for newcomers, people will find that their entire body is stiff and sore. It shows that karting is in fact good exercise. When you move up to faster karts, the physical demand becomes even higher.
No Power Steering
Go karts do not have power steering. This means that they turn their front wheels through the force you put into the steering wheel. Karts do not need power steering and are not fast enough in order for it to become a requirement.
The means that it can become extremely tiring on your arms after karting for extended periods of time. If you are racing in championships, it’s a good idea to work on your physical strength, especially in your arms if you want to be competitive. Seeing as races last around 20 minutes or so, you could see a significant drop in your lap times towards the end of the race if you aren’t fit enough.
In addition to the lack of power steering, karts also do not have the most comfortable steering wheels. You will find that even in slow rental karts your grip strength becomes really important. Hanging onto the steering wheel when you are powering through corners with no power steering can be a tough challenge. Even veteran drivers will start to feel their wrists giving in towards the end of a session.
This heavily affects both your wrists and your palms specifically. Try and pick up one of the hand grips strengthening tools and do as many reps as you can. You’ll get an idea of how your hands will feel towards the end of your final session of the day in a kart.
Of course, this also increases as the karts get faster. Even the Superkarts that can reach up to 120MPH do not have power steering, so those are really good for upper body exercise!
Next we will factor in something that our bodies are not particularly used and arguably aren’t designed to withstand as much. That is G-forces. You might experience some light G-forces here and there when you drive in a normal car on the road.
However, in a kart these G-forces are a bit more exaggerated than usual. For someone that is not used to experiencing G-forces this can mean a stiff neck and a sore body the next morning when you wake up.
The only way to train your body to withstand G-forces is through experiencing them. So, expect your first time in a kart to be the worst, and as your body becomes used to the experience it will be able to withstand them better.
Experiencing G-forces can be good exercise as well. It can help you to develop the muscles in your neck, as our necks do not get much training (unless you are a fighter pilot or a racing driver). In addition, the rest of your body will also develop more strength through experiencing G-forces. Our bodies aren’t used to gravity pushing us into different directions (except for being pulled downwards towards the earth) and exposing your body to opposing G-forces can actually train them to become stronger.
Hydration is a key factor in exercise, and so it is in karting as well. Have you ever ran a 100-meter sprint, or even a long-distance marathon? That extreme dryness in your throat is the same kind of feeling you get after a session in a go kart (if you were driving fast enough). That’s why you see drivers frantically reaching for their water bottles after getting out of the kart.
The reason why hydration is so important in karting is because there is no onboard water bottle. So, you will be performing a physical activity with no hydration (for however long your karting session is). Of course, if you factor in the fire-retardant clothing and race suit you have to wear, plus the helmet, it can get quite hot. This is especially true if you are karting in the summer or in highly humid areas.
Drivers tend to lose quite a bit of weight during the race. Depending on the class they are racing in as well as the ambient temperature, drivers can lose up to 2 or 3 kilograms in weight during a day of karting. It’s important to stay hydrated during this time to keep your body fuelled up.
So, if you are looking to lose some weight but want to avoid the gym, just put some money aside for regular karting sessions down at your local track!
Cardio might not seem that important to drivers since it doesn’t seem like you are doing a lot of moving around in the kart itself. However, the factor at play here is the adrenaline and the elevated heart rate that drivers experience in a kart.
Driving a go-kart at high speed is enough to give anyone a good adrenaline rush on its own. But when you put 30 other karts on the same circuit and tell them to race each other, the result is an even higher heart rate and even more adrenaline.
Exercise and cardiovascular training are all about increasing your heart rate and increasing that blood flow, and that is exactly what karting does. In that sense, it certainly is cardiovascular exercise. The result of the increased heart rate is also an increase in breaths per minute. When your heart rate increases, you start breathing faster and shallower, very much like you would when running.
Athlete Racing Drivers
Racing drivers (karting drivers included) are very much athletes. Although it may not seem like it, karting is actually very good exercise. There is much more going on than just sitting in the seat and driving the kart.
As such, many drivers have taken on personal trainers and started their own training regimes in order to improve their fitness, and therefore their performance on track. Drivers tend to spend a lot of time in the gym doing strength training.
In addition, they also add in some cardio exercises like running or cycling in order to get their heart rate elevated and increase their endurance over an extended period of time. Some drivers also like to focus a lot of swimming, as this is a full body strengthening exercise, and it also throws the cardio factor into it as well.
Karting is great exercise. To many it seems easy enough to sit in the seat, press the pedals and turn the steering wheel. But if you want to be competitive, you need to be highly focused on your fitness levels.
The physical demand in keeping a kart under control at high speeds can be extreme. Factor in the addition of G-forces and you will wake up the next morning feeling like you have spent the previous day in the gym.