In need of a last-minute gift idea, something different nobody else is looking for, and friendly to people who want to enjoy the wintery outdoors? I have a suggestion:
Now hear me out — this obviously isn’t a gift-advising site, but since snowshoes double as vehicles to increase activity, promote exercise, and enjoy the outdoors (all of which promote better overall health), I think this is worth your time to read.
Most people try to incorporate some type of aerobic exercise into their week — the CSEP (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) Canadian Activity Guidelines recommend adults aged 18-64 years old get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intense physical activity in at least 10 minute bouts per week. Common ways people try to accomplish this include bicycling, running, recreational sports, or perhaps most simply — walking. The winter season puts up obvious barriers to physical activity though — for example it’s cold, slippery, and the usual routes we take are covered with snow or ice.
So let’s break open that barrier and compare walking with snowshoeing — can you substitute one for the other and get similar health benefits? A study by Connolly (2002) in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared energy expenditure while walking at 4 or 6 mph on a treadmill to energy expenditure while using snowshoes in either packed or unpacked snow.
What was found:
- When walking at the same overall pace (eg. 4 mph on a treadmill vs 4 mph with snowshoes), more energy is burned snowshoeing than walking on a treadmill
- Snowshoeing in packed snow takes less effort than snowshoeing in unpacked snow. For example, for the energy needed to walk on a treadmill at 4 mph, you only need to walk 2.95 mph in packed snow, or 2.05 mph in unpacked snow.
- For the energy needed to walk 6 mph on a treadmill, you only need to walk 3.97 mph in packed snow, or 2.87 mph in unpacked snow.
- Increasing your speed by just 1mph while using snowshoes (when moving between 2-3 mph already) will nearly double your energy expenditure.
Snowshoeing: A Very Merry Gift
With slippery conditions in the winter, people often feel as if they cannot move quickly enough to get benefits from their exercise. As you can see from above, however, snowshoes do not require you to move as fast as you normally would to use the same amount of energy. They are also a fun and easy way to get outdoors and stay active throughout the winter!
Dr. Jim Gilliard is a chiropractor in Burlington, ON at Endorphins Health and Wellness Centre — located in the Burlington Professional Centre at 3155 Harvester Road, Suite 406. If you have questions, comments, or wish to book an appointment, please feel free to contact him at your convenience.
- Connolly DA. (2002). The energy expenditure of snowshoeing in packed vs. unpacked snow at low-level walking speeds. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research; 16(4): 606-10.