Snowshoe For the Health of It: FAQ Regarding the Health and Fitness Benefits of Snowshoeing

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With more than 1.1 million active enthusiasts and 5.9 million participants, snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports. Female participation in particular grew 17% in 2003 as women realize the physical and emotional benefits of snowshoeing and how it can create a healthy lifestyle.

With more than 1.1 million active enthusiasts and 5.9 million participants, snowshoeing is one of the fastest growing winter sports. Female participation in particular grew 17% in 2003 as women realize the physical and emotional benefits of snowshoeing and how it can create a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the commonly asked questions regarding snowshoeing’s healthy attributes, and the answers from the snowshoe experts at Atlas Snow-Shoe Company:

Activity (moderate level)

Calories* Burned/Hour

Cycling: 408

Walking: 272

Downhill Skiing: 408

Hiking: 340

Snowshoeing: 680

  • Based on a 150 pound person

Two major factors to consider while snowshoeing are speed and snow depth according to a recent study commissioned at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. When a person hikes at a moderate speed of 2.0 to 2.5 mph on varied terrain, he/she can expect to burn up to 500 calories per hour. By increasing the speed to 3.0 to 3.5 mph, one can expect to burn up to 1,000 calories per hour. The second major factor to consider is the depth of snow because the energy cost of snowshoeing can vary depending on how deep you sink into the snow. Studies on snowshoeing on “packed” versus “unpacked” snow have shown that the energy cost almost doubled in unpacked conditions.

Will I get an aerobic workout?

Snowshoeing raises your heart rate and provides an aerobic workout that compares favorably with other activities such as running, swimming, cross-country skiing and bicycling. In fact, many cyclists, mountain bikers, trail runners and adventure racers snowshoe as a way to cross-train and improve their cardio fitness during the winter months.

How does snowshoeing improve core body strength and balance?

“Snowshoeing on varied terrain stimulates my sense of balance and develops core muscle strength,” says Adam Chase of Team Atlas. Varying terrain and snow depths, ascents, descents and traverses require the snowshoer to engage their abdominal and back muscles. Snowshoers benefit from cat-like balance, responsiveness, and a strong and limber core.

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.

What muscles can I expect to work when snowshoeing?

CLIMBING: Muscles worked: Quadriceps. To ascend a slope, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snows and press down compacting it into a step. Make sure that each new step is sufficiently above the last one to avoid collapse.

DESCENDING: Muscles worked: Hamstrings. Heal cleats are the key to an easy descent. Keep your knees slightly bent, lean back, and keep your weight on the heel cleats to maintain control.

EDGING: Muscles worked: Adductors and Abductors. To traverse a slope, kick the side of the snowshoe into the hillside, engaging the cleats. Swing your heel hard towards the uphill slope, and then stomp down to secure the snowshoe edge in the slope.

BREAKING TRAIL: Muscles worked: Hip Flexors and Quads. When snowshoeing in a group, walk in a single line behind the leader who’s breaking the trail. When it’s your turn to lead, take consistent, even steps that are easy for everyone to follow.

POLES: Muscles worked: Chest and Back Muscles, Triceps and Biceps. Use poles to maintain your balance while snowshoeing and take pressure off your knees. Poles will enhance your workout aerobically as well as provide an upper body workout.

What are some important tips to keep me safe and injury-free while snowshoeing?

-Make sure you drink plenty of water and take some with you before you head outside to snowshoe. Staying hydrated will keep your muscles working and burning calories.

-Always go at your own pace.

-Choose and utilize quality snowshoe equipment. Atlas Snow-Shoe Company has shoes for various conditions and activities. Find what’s right for you by following the FACTS: Flotation, Articulation, Comfort and Traction features.

What other fitness and health experts are saying:

“Snowshoeing is an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness thus reducing the chance for heart disease,” says Joe Piscatella, President of the Institute for Fitness and Health in Gig Harbor, Washington, and author of the best-selling book, Don’t Eat Your Heart Out. “It takes you into beautiful, serene settings that calm your mind while exercising your body. It’s a made-in-heaven deal for people who are looking for a Winter exercise.”

“When I am snowshoeing in the mountains I am strong, grounded and able to take risks and solve problems,” says Dede O’Mara, a certified National Outdoor Leadership School instructor, engineer and outdoor aficionado. “I return to the city with these qualities still alive, and I am reminded of how powerful I really am.”

“When people are in beautiful surroundings and connecting with Mother Nature there’s a certain balance in life allowing one to gain perspective,” says Piscatella. “That is why snowshoeing is the ideal lifestyle sport.”

ABOUT ATLAS SNOW-SHOE COMPANY:

Atlas Snow-Shoe Company, based in San Francisco, California, brought snowshoeing into the modern age by developing the spring-loaded binding, the first snowshoe innovation in more than 40 years. With over 15 patents, Atlas continues its quest to design superior snowshoe products engineered for the mountain. It has been the recipient of the prestigious American Alpine Institute’s Guides Choice Award since 1996. Atlas products are available nationwide and in select countries around the world at general sporting goods, specialty outdoor and snow sport retailers. The Atlas brand is one of a growing array of leading, premier sporting good brands owned by K2, Inc. (NSYE: KTO).

For more information about snowshoeing’s health and fitness benefits and the Atlas Snow-Shoe Company, visit http://www.atlassnowshoe.com or call 415-703-8569

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Julie Mcfadden
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