With all the technical gadgetry, wearables and step trackers out there these days, many of us are beginning to appreciate the health benefits of walking every day. In fact, 10,000 steps has become the defacto daily exercise goal for many people who primarily walk as their form of physical activity.
During winter, especially in northern and mountainous climates, long walks are often tricky. Lack of plowed sidewalks or cleared trails can make a jog or long walk inaccessible—even dangerous.
But there’s a simple solution: snowshoeing.
Snowshoes turn favorite activities, such as jogging, hiking or walking, into safe, fun ways to play outside in the snow. Here are eight reasons you should try snowshoeing this winter:
It’s gear-friendly: Snowshoeing takes relatively little equipment. You can buy a good pair of snowshoes starting around $100 that will last you a lifetime, and they fit around most regular winter boots. If you’re unsure if you will like snowshoeing, rent a pair first at your local outdoors shop or sports store. You’ll also need a hat and gloves and, depending on the temperature, some good layers of clothing: base layer, mid-layer, insulation and shell.
It’s easy to learn: Snowshoeing takes no particular skill other than walking through snow. Sure, you’ll want to step carefully in deep snow to get a feel for it, and going downhill may force you to be extra careful with your balance, but there’s no real skill involved. You can get a feel for the activity even on your first hike. If you feel unsure about your balance, a basic pair of hiking poles can help.
It’s inexpensive: Once you own a pair of snowshoes, going out is as cheap as going for a walk, jog or hike—unless you decide to go on a formal snowshoe trail in resort areas, which might charge anywhere from $5-15. But generally snowshoeing is free and you can go anywhere that has a walking trail. Often times, this just means driving to a trailhead, parking and heading out.
It’s easy to tailor to your fitness level: If you aren’t normally physically active, even 15 minutes of snowshoeing is a great workout to get started. If you’re looking to work up a good sweat, you can walk for over an hour or even several hours if you are a regular hiker or runner.
It’s a great calorie burner: According to two independent studies conducted by Ball State University and the University of Vermont, snowshoers can burn anywhere between 420-1,000 calories per hour. That’s as much as a very brisk walking pace of about 4-5 mph, even if you are going slower on snowshoes. The extra calories are burned from the big steps you need to take to cut through the snow and the possible elevation gain (depending on the trail).
It’s a chance to enjoy the scenery: Winter is the time to enjoy activities, such as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or backcountry skiing, that put you in incredible natural scenery, but snowshoeing is definitely the easiest of these to pick up.
It’s terrific for groups: Just like a hike, family walk or group jog, snowshoeing is very social and can be done in big groups. In fact, going out with a buddy is strongly advised for safety purposes. Also make sure people know when and where you’re headed.
It’s satisfying: Somehow, like a terrific hike up a hill or a good sweat-building jog around the neighborhood, snowshoeing gives you a sense of satisfaction that you’ve accomplished something and done your body some good in the process.
So give snowshoeing a try this winter. You’ll be glad you did.