Health and Fitness Benefits of Snowshoeing

More than 5.5 million people took over 22 million snowshoe outings last year, and put themselves “on the right trek” to staying active and healthy when the snow flies.

“Snowshoeing is the best bang for your buck fat burning workout in winter”, accordingly to Dr. Ray Browning of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado’s Health Science Center and Vail Mountain Man champion. “It’s an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy, and reduce your chance of heart disease, plus it’s low cost, easily mastered and fun.

All Terrain Training for a Total Body Workout

Varied terrain and snow depths, long climbs, steep descents, and side slope traverses require the snowshoer to engage every part of their body, with a hyper focus on strength, endurance and core muscle enhancement. Snowshoers can also see direct benefits in the development of their “proprioceptive muscles”. Proprioception is the body’s ability to orient itself in space without visual clues utilizing stimuli originating from within the body. The body uses its muscles, joints, tendons, and inner ear sensory nerve terminals to adjust posture and positioning. Since most all snow tends to be white, making it difficult to distinguish terrain features, especially in flat or low light conditions, the body relies on proprioception. Snowshoeing aids in strengthening and conditioning the micro muscles used for balance.

Climbing – Quadriceps. To ascend a slope, kick your snowshoe into the incline and press down compacting the snow as you step forward.

Descending – Hamstrings. Heel crampons make your descent safe and secure. Keep your knees slightly bent, and lean back loading your weight over your heel crampons for grip and control.

Traversing – Abductors and Adductors. To traverse a slope, edge the side of your snowshoe frame into the hillside. Position your weight into the slope as your crampons grip the terrain.

Breaking Trail – Hip Flexors and Quadriceps. Your first tracks through powder snow and untracked terrain will consume more energy that if you follow the leader.

Snowshoe Poles – Chest and Back Muscles, Triceps and Biceps. Add snowshoe poles for a total body workout; poles also help maintain your balance in variable terrain and relieve quadriceps pressure in steep pitches.

How Does Snowshoeing Stack Up?

Research details energy expenditures for snowshoeing versus other outdoor activities.

According to an independent study conducted by the University of Vermont, snowshoers can burn 420-1000 calories per hour.

“Snowshoeing is an effective, low impact, and safe form of exercise to change body composition.  It burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed,” said Dr. Declan Connolly of the University of Vermont’s exercise physiology department.

Connolly said snowshoers can vary the intensity of their workout, noting that they can burn fewer calories by taking an easy walk on flat packed terrain, or get a more intense workout, more than 1,000 calories burned per hour, if they snowshoe in powder on hilly terrain at a pace of three miles per hour.

“Snowshoeing utilizes major muscle groups which, when combined with a higher metabolic rate in cold weather and the added resistance of moving through snow, results in a higher energy activity.”

Fitness chart

So, are you looking for a feasible alternative for conditioning during the winter months?  Look no further.  With snowshoeing, equipment needs are minimal beyond the shoes, and participation allows greater exposure to the outdoors.