The Health Benefits of Snowshoeing
By Chris Gorski
Despite the fact that snowshoeing is a great way to get out of the house in the winter, snowshoeing has some very significant health benefits. In many places, biking, running, and hiking trails are covered in snow for many months of the year. However, this does not mean that they are inaccessible. Snowshoes offer a way to access your favorite trails in the winter months, while still receiving the aerobic workout you would get while running, hiking, or biking. A common misconception is that snowshoes can only be used in a rural setting. Snowshoeing is an equally enjoyable activity on both rural and urban settings. In urban settings, snowshoeing around your neighborhood or your local park is an excellent way to enjoy the sport of snowshoeing without having to head to the woods.
Snowshoeing is a low impact work out. This the snow acts like giant cushion, absorbing the shocks and bumps. This makes it a great activity for those of us with bad knees or shin splints. Additionally, snowshoeing burns far more calories per hour than running. This is because you must lift your legs much higher in snowshoeing than in running and snowshoeing is performed in cold weather. Because your body must work harder to keep you warm in cold weather, it burns more calories. In a given hour, you can expect to burn anywhere between 400 and 900 calories. The total amount of calories burned will depend on your speed, the pitch of terrain, depth of snow, and whether or not you plan on using poles. To be a little more specific, The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse conducted a study which found that snowshoeing at an average speed of 3 MPH compared favorably to running at 6 MPH, cycling at 14-16 MPH, and cross country skiing at 5-8 MPH. Snowshoeing is also approved by the American Heart Association as an approved aerobic activity. This means that snowshoeing is an excellent way to prevent heart disease.
The muscular benefits of snowshoeing are very similar to that of running. The main muscles worked are the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles as well as the muscle groups in your feet and ankles. If you choose to use poles while snowshoeing, the muscles in your back, shoulders, and arms will get an excellent workout as well.