Snowshoeing is the perfect way to embrace the beauty of winter and stay physically active, and it’s pretty easy to learn too. But is snowshoeing good exercise?

I’ve been snowshoeing for many years now and feel it’s so underrated. The beauty of snowshoeing is that it can be anything you want it to be, from a leisurely romp through the wilderness to a leg-burning blast of adrenaline.

Either way, it’s definitely good exercise. The cold fresh air alone is enough to improve your mood and help you sleep better. But also fantastic exercise. And here are the top reasons why.

Health Benefits of Snowshoeing
Cardiovascular endurance
Full body workout
Low impact exercise
Calorie burning blast
Improved balance and coordination
Stress reduction
Mood enhancement
Reduces winter blues
Social activity
Connecting with nature
Builds confidence
Improves sleep
Is snowshoeing good exercise?

Is Snowshoeing Good Exercise?

What follows are 12 health benefits of snowshoeing, both physical and mental.

Physical benefits of snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is good for your body in multiple ways.

1. Cardiovascular Endurance

Snowshoeing is an excellent aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping and blood flowing. The combination of walking or hiking on uneven terrain and the added resistance from the snow helps elevate your heart rate, thereby improving cardiovascular endurance.

Regular snowshoeing can contribute to lowering the risk of heart disease, strengthening the heart, and enhancing overall lung capacity.

2. Full-Body Workout

One of the greatest advantages of snowshoeing is its ability to engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. With each step, you activate the muscles in your legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

Additionally, the constant balance required during snowshoeing recruits the core muscles, enhancing stability and strength. Moreover, the use of poles, which is a common practice in snowshoeing, involves the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and back, creating a complete full-body workout.

3. Low-Impact Exercise

Unlike high-impact activities like running or plyometrics, snowshoeing is a low-impact exercise. The soft snow cushions each step, reducing stress on joints, making it an ideal workout option for individuals with joint issues or those looking to give their joints a break from high-impact activities.

This low-impact nature of snowshoeing also makes it suitable for people of various fitness levels, including those recovering from injuries or with physical limitations.

4. Calorie Burning

The effort required to navigate through snow-covered terrains results in a significant number of calories burned while snowshoeing.

On average, a person weighing 150 pounds can burn approximately 500-700 calories per hour while snowshoeing. The number may increase depending on factors such as speed, terrain, and body weight.

For those looking to shed a few pounds or maintain their weight during the winter season, snowshoeing provides an effective calorie-burning workout.

5. Balance and Coordination

Snowshoeing is an excellent exercise for improving balance and coordination. The activity involves walking on uneven, snow-covered terrain, which requires constant adjustments to body position and weight distribution.

Negotiating these surfaces challenges and strengthens core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back, leading to enhanced stability. Each step taken in snowshoes involves shifting weight from one foot to the other, fostering coordinated movements and developing balance.

snowshoeing trail leading up a mountain

Mental Health Benefits of snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is good for your mental health as well, supporting a more positive perspective in your every day.

6. Stress Reduction

Both time outdoors and exercise have been linked to reduced stress levels and improved mental well-being.

Snowshoeing, with its serene surroundings and tranquil landscapes, provides an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the pressures of daily life and connect with nature.

Engaging in nature-based activities like snowshoeing has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, thereby promoting relaxation and a sense of calm.

7. Mood Enhancement

Physical activity, including snowshoeing, triggers the release of endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These endorphins promote positive emotions and a sense of well-being, leaving you with an elevated mood and sense of accomplishment after a snowshoeing session.

This mood-enhancing effect is particularly valuable during the winter months when some individuals may experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or simply feel a bit down due to the lack of sunlight.

8. Winter Blues Prevention

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly known as winter blues, affects many individuals during the colder months. Engaging in outdoor activities like snowshoeing exposes you to natural light, which can help alleviate the symptoms of SAD and improve overall mental health.

The exposure to sunlight also aids in the production of vitamin D, a nutrient essential for bone health and maintaining a healthy immune system.

9. Group Activity and Bonding

Snowshoeing can be a fantastic group activity, allowing friends and family to come together and enjoy the winter wonderland. It provides an opportunity for bonding, shared experiences, and fostering strong relationships.

The shared physical challenge of snowshoeing can create lasting memories and strengthen connections among participants.

10. Connecting with Nature

Snowshoeing takes you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerses you in the tranquility of winter wilderness.

It provides a unique opportunity to witness the beauty of snow-covered landscapes, observe wildlife, and experience the serenity that comes with being in nature during the quieter winter months.

Snow makes just about everything more beautiful in my opinion, but I did grow up in Alaska. It adds a fresh perspective to everything you see.

11. Builds confidence

Snowshoeing builds confidence through its unique combination of physical challenges, personal achievements, and a profound connection with nature.

Overcoming the challenges of navigating deep snow, steep slopes, and uneven terrains fosters a sense of accomplishment and a sense of competence and self-assurance.

12. Improves Sleep Quality

Exercise can significantly improve sleep quality and duration. Engaging in regular physical activity helps regulate the body’s internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which governs the sleep-wake cycle.

When we exercise, especially in the morning or early afternoon, our body temperature rises, and post-exercise, it gradually cools down, signaling to the brain that it’s time to sleep.

Moreover, exercise can tire the body and mind, enhancing sleep efficiency. People who engage in regular exercise often experience deeper and more restorative sleep, waking up feeling more refreshed and alert. I know that I sleep 100x better when I’ve had a good workout that day.

Consistent exercise also has positive effects on conditions such as sleep apnea and insomnia, as it helps to regulate breathing patterns and promotes a state of calmness that aids in falling asleep faster and staying asleep throughout the night.

A person snowshoeing among drifts of snow and snow covered trees

How does snowshoeing compare to other forms of exercise in terms of intensity and calorie burn?

Snowshoeing is considered a moderate to high-intensity workout, depending on the terrain and pace. It can burn between 420 to 1,000 calories per hour, significantly more than walking or running at the same speed on a clear path.

This variance is due to the extra effort required to lift your feet with the snowshoes on and move through the resistance provided by the snow.

Additionally, navigating uneven terrain and hills increases the workout’s intensity, engaging more muscle groups and further boosting calorie expenditure.

Snowshoeing’s adaptability to different fitness levels and goals makes it an excellent exercise choice if you’re looking to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle strength, and enhance endurance.

Safety Considerations

Like any sport or outdoor activity, there are a few things to keep in mind for your own safety and well-being.

Dressing Appropriately

Wear layered clothing to stay warm and remove layers as needed to prevent overheating during intense physical activity.

Make sure to wear moisture-wicking base layers to keep sweat away from your body, insulated and waterproof outer layers to protect against cold and moisture, and high-quality thermal socks and gloves to keep your extremities warm.

Checking the Weather and Terrain

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and trail conditions before heading out for a snowshoeing adventure. Snow and weather conditions can change rapidly in winter, so it’s crucial to be prepared for any unexpected changes.

Be cautious of avalanche risks in certain areas, and always inform someone of your planned route and estimated return time, especially if you’re venturing into remote or unfamiliar locations.

Proper Equipment and Footwear

Invest in good-quality snowshoes that fit comfortably and provide sufficient traction for various types of snow. The size and style of snowshoes you choose will depend on your weight, the type of terrain you’ll encounter, and your intended use (recreational vs. backcountry).

Also, wear waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet dry and warm throughout your outing. Additionally, consider using trekking poles to enhance stability and reduce the strain on your knees during descents.

Bring the Ten Essentials

Be sure to bring the Ten Essentials with you, just like hiking. Especially a first aid kit, just in case, healthy snacks and water to keep you energized throughout your adventure.

Bathroom facilities buried in snow at the trailhead
Bathroom Facilities – Buried!

Understanding Snowshoeing

Originating from indigenous communities who used it as a means of traversing snowy terrains, snowshoeing has evolved into a recreational sport and a fantastic way to experience nature while engaging in a full-body workout.

Snowshoes are specialized footwear designed to disperse body weight and prevent the wearer from sinking into deep snow. They come in various shapes and sizes, allowing anyone of any age and fitness level to participate.

Unlike skiing or snowboarding, snowshoeing does not require any specialized skills, making it accessible to everyone.

Exploring Untouched Sceneries

Snowshoeing opens up new possibilities for exploring areas that might be otherwise inaccessible during winter due to deep snow. With snowshoes, you can trek through forests, climb hills, and follow hidden trails, all while leaving minimal impact on the environment.

There are several types of snowshoeing activities, each catering to different preferences and terrains:

Traditional Snowshoeing: The most common type, suitable for beginners and casual snowshoers. Recreational snowshoeing involves exploring well-marked trails, flat to moderately hilly terrains, and is great for enjoying the winter scenery. This is the best kind for beginner snowshoeing.

Backcountry Snowshoeing: Geared towards more experienced snowshoers who seek remote and challenging terrains. It involves venturing off-trail into deeper snow, steeper slopes, and possibly harsher weather conditions.

Running or Racing Snowshoeing: A competitive form of snowshoeing, where participants wear specialized lightweight snowshoes for faster movement. Races can vary in distances and difficulty levels.

Fitness or Aerobic Snowshoeing: Focused on using snowshoes as a tool for cardiovascular exercise. Participants engage in brisk walking or running on packed trails or groomed surfaces.

Mountain Snowshoeing: Aimed at experienced hikers and mountaineers, it involves climbing up mountains or alpine terrains in snowshoes. It requires proper mountaineering skills and avalanche awareness.

Expedition Snowshoeing: An advanced form of snowshoeing used for extended winter journeys, such as winter camping or crossing challenging landscapes. It demands specialized gear and advanced winter survival skills.

Each type of snowshoeing is a unique experience, allowing people of various skill levels and interests to enjoy the outdoors during the winter season.

View from a mountain snowshoe trail

Snowshoeing FAQs

Some commonly asked questions about snowshoeing, and answers to them!

Can you lose weight snowshoeing?

Yes, snowshoeing can contribute to weight loss when combined with a calorie-controlled diet. It’s a moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise that burns calories and improves overall fitness. Regular snowshoeing, along with a healthy lifestyle, can support weight loss efforts.

How much of a workout is snowshoeing?

Snowshoeing provides a moderate-to-high intensity aerobic workout, engaging major muscle groups, and burning calories. It offers cardiovascular benefits, strengthens lower body muscles, improves balance, and can be an effective way to stay active and fit during the winter months.

What muscles does snowshoeing work?

Snowshoeing primarily works the muscles in the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Additionally, it engages core muscles, such as the abdominals and lower back, and incorporates arm movement when using trekking poles, contributing to a full-body workout.

Is snowshoeing harder than hiking?

Snowshoeing can be more challenging than regular hiking due to the added resistance of walking on snow. It requires extra effort to lift and move the snowshoes, making the activity more physically demanding, especially in deep snow or steep terrains.

Snowshoe trail vibes on a sunny day

Final Thoughts: Is Snowshoeing Good Exercise?

Snowshoeing is undeniably an excellent form of exercise with numerous health benefits. It also offers a unique and delightful way to stay active during the winter months.

From the cardiovascular benefits and full-body workout to the positive impact on mental health, snowshoeing stands as a fun and accessible exercise option for people of all ages and fitness levels. I hope you are able to try it for yourself this winter!