Diabetes and Exercise: Get Out and Get Moving On Snowshoes
Snowshoes are not just for Arctic explorers.
Strapping on a pair and tramping through the snow is an excellent fat-burning fitness activity that is low cost, and easy to learn.
“Snowshoeing is an effective, low impact, and safe form of exercise to change body composition. It burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed,” says Dr. Declan Connolly, University of Vermont, physiology department.
Snowshoers burn between 400 and 1,000 calories per hour depending on their walking pace. Snowshoeing also improves strength, balance, agility, and endurance.
“It’s an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy and reduce your chance of heart disease; plus it’s....fun,” according to Dr. Ray Browning at the University of Colorado’s Center for Human Nutrition.
Before Strapping on Snowshoes
Because snowshoeing utilizes major muscle groups and gets the heart pumping, not everyone is suited to the sport. Before gearing up, consider three things:
- Check with your physician to see whether snowshoeing is a good exercise for you. Snowshoeing is not recommended for those with current heart or lung disease, or those with current muscle-skeletal injuries. If you had muscle or bone problems in the past, talk to your doctor about the feasibility of snowshoeing.
- You should be capable of walking for at least one half hour on flat terrain. The more endurance you have built up prior to snowshoeing the better, but by starting at a slow pace any reasonably in-shape individual can enjoy the fun and benefits of snowshoeing.
- Since snowshoeing is a high energy activity, it might be necessary for those with diabetes to adjust their carb intake or insulin dose either before or after trekking. Check with your diabetes care team if unsure how to adjust diet or meds for increased activity.
If none of these considerations prevent you from snowshoeing, the only thing between you and a refreshing wintry hike is lining up the necessary equipment.
Beside winter hats, gloves, and jackets, hiking with snowshoes requires either lightweight waterproof hiking boots, or insulated winter footwear—and a suitable pair of snowshoes.
Most day hikers will want recreational snowshoes designed for gentle or moderate three to five mile treks across flat and rolling terrain. The size of your snowshoe will depend primarily on your weight and stance. Poles are optional, but some people find they are useful for maintaining balance and a steady walking rhythm.
Some recreation areas offer snowshoe rentals, giving you a chance to try the sport before investing in snowshoes of your own. When you are ready to buy, do online research or visit a local sporting goods store to choose snowshoes suited for your build and hiking needs.