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Prairie Fare: Snowshoes Offer Exercise and Fun During Snowy Winters

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
With ample amounts of snow available this season, snowshoes are proving to be a good investment in the quest to stay fit and have some fun during the long winter months.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, are you OK?” my 12-year-old daughter asked as she glanced back at me over her shoulder. She was hiking along wearing her new snowshoes.

She had veered off course and was blazing her own trail to follow chattering birds chasing an owl in the trees overhead. The late-December day was sunny and fairly warm by North Dakota standards.

“Yes, I’m on my way,” I said, trying to sound more energetic than I felt.

I felt as though I was on the trail of Bigfoot wearing clown shoes. I carefully followed her large footprints on the snowbanks, leaving large footprints of my own. Sometimes I sank in the soft snow when I got off the trail, but most of the time our snowshoes helped distribute our weight as we “floated” on the snowbanks.

With ample amounts of snow available this season, snowshoes are proving to be a good investment for us in the quest to stay fit and have some fun during the long winter months. We are getting heart-healthy aerobic workouts, and I am discovering some underused muscles in my legs.

Unlike cross-country skiing, which took a little time to master, snowshoeing is quite a bit easier. Several types and sizes of snowshoes are available at varying prices. Ours have a lightweight aluminum frame, cleats and decking made of synthetic material. They allow us to wear our winter boots and simply adjust the strap in the back to fit around our boots.

Traditional snowshoes were made of wood with webbing. These would be the ones you might associate with fur trappers in historical photos. Snowshoes have a long history throughout the world, and snowshoes of all types were common among early American Indian tribes.

Today’s runners may want to take note that adding snowshoeing to their workout routine may be more valuable to staying in shape than running, according to a six-week study by the University of Vermont.

The number of calories you burn will vary depending on whether you are walking on packed or unpacked snow, according to another University of Vermont study. According to the results, people snowshoeing on packed snow at just under 4 miles per hour burned the same number of calories as people walking on a treadmill at 6 miles per hour. People snowshoeing on unpacked snow at about 3 miles per hour burned the same number of calories as people walking 6 miles per hour on a treadmill.

If you decide to enjoy the great outdoors on snowshoes, be sure to dress properly. Wear several layers of lightweight items so you can add or remove items of clothing.

Instead of wearing cotton or another natural fiber nearest your skin, choose a synthetic fiber such as some of the high-tech polyester fibers available. The synthetic fibers help wick away perspiration, while cotton usually remains damp against your skin. Add an insulating layer, such as a polar fleece jacket, to trap in your body heat. Then top with a rip-stop nylon jacket or other outerwear to repel wind and moisture. Don’t forget your hat and mittens or gloves.

When you’re done with your outdoor workout, rehydrate your body with some fluids. If you’ve been snowshoeing, especially on unpacked snow, chances are you will have been perspiring.

When life hands you lemons, such as one too many blizzards, try out some snowshoes with your family or friends and have a refreshing glass of lemonade as a reward. Here’s a tasty vitamin C-rich recipe for lemonade.

Old-fashioned Lemonade

6 lemons (to make about 1 c. lemon juice)

6 c. cold water

1 c. sugar

Juice lemons. Mix juice, water and sugar in pitcher. Stir well. Serve over ice.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 105 calories, no fat, 28 grams of carbohydrate and 23 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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