Each New Year, as we reminisce about times past, many people think of ways they want to better their lives in the future through a resolution. Not surprisingly, the most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. The biggest increase in gym memberships also happens in January. Yet by March 1st, 90 percent of those with new memberships come less than once a week. So instead of going to the gym, why not take that New Year’s resolution outside? If you snowshoe, you have the potential to significantly improve your fitness level and burn more calories than running or skiing.
So how does snowshoeing burn calories?
When you snowshoe, you can burn up to 45 percent more calories than walking or running at the same speed. Several factors contribute to this increase:
- exercising in cold weather increases your metabolic rate
- you are walking with added weight on your feet – providing the same effect as wearing ankle weights.
- there is the added resistance of moving through the snow.
Even with this increase, the exact number of calories you burn while snowshoeing will depend upon four additional factors:
- the terrain
- the condition of the snow (packed or powder)
- your pace (and whether or not you use poles)
- your body size
It takes more effort to traverse steep terrain compared to flat terrain. Thus, more calories will be burned while snowshoeing on hilly terrain compared to flat terrain.
For example, if you are around 120 pounds and you walk on packed snow with flat terrain for an hour, you will typically burn about 360 calories. That’s quite a few, for just an hour of walking.
If you’ve never broken trail, give it a try! Freshly fallen powder provides an incredible amount of resistance and creating a trail where a trail does not exist will get your heart pumping. Taking this into account, snowshoeing in the powder will burn more calories than snowshoeing in hard-packed conditions.
Pace & Poles
For all those who enjoy running, try running on snowshoes! The faster pace of running adds to calories burned, compared to a leisurely walk.
For example, if you are 180 pounds, and run on snowshoes on packed, flat snow for an hour, you can burn more than 1,000 calories.
Read More: Transition From Running To Snowshoe Racing
Also, did you know that poles can make a significant difference in the number of calories you burn? Poles are incredibly helpful for stability, but they also require more work from your upper body while snowshoeing. To up the intensity level, try using Nordic walking poles instead of hiking poles.
Walking with poles in powder snow on hilly terrain can push that hour for the 120 lb person up to 670 calories, while the 180-pound person will again burn just more than 1,000 calories in that same scenario.
Larger body sizes will see a more significant increase in the number of calories burned across activities because they are naturally carrying more weight. For example, an individual weighing 120 lbs will burn over 400 calories when snowshoeing in hilly, packed conditions, while an individual weighing 180 lbs will more than 600 calories in those same conditions!
The American Hiking Society has provided the following chart that compares average calories burned depending on the type of snowshoeing you are doing:
You can also compare the calories burned in other winter activities, such as downhill and cross-country skiing, to the calories burned snowshoeing at Snowgaper.
Added Benefits of Snowshoeing (Other Than Calories)
Besides being an excellent calorie-burner, snowshoeing is an aerobic exercise that uses major muscle groups. Plus, the intensity of the activity over an extended period of time improves cardiovascular fitness.
All this, and yet it’s a low-impact sport. Ray Browning, technical director of Tubbs Snowshoes says, “Snowshoeing is low impact due to the fact that snow is softer than asphalt or concrete and the construction of the snowshoe acts as a shock absorber for your feet, reducing the typical impact forces associated with running.”
Over the years I have essentially destroyed my knees by ski racing and reluctantly gave that activity up. Fortunately, I discovered snowshoeing and can get outside and enjoy the winter landscape without pain because the broad base of the snowshoes provides so much stability; it felt more secure than even walking. I may be looking at knee replacement at some point in the future, but for the time being, I am very pleased with my ability to snowshoe and not be a couch potato over the winter.
Have you seen the fitness and health benefits of snowshoeing? In what capacity do you snowshoe?
This article was updated on Jan 22, 2020, by S. Wowk to include an expansion of the four additional factors.