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Life in Motion

Unique Winter Sports

Sports & Exercise

In a rut with your exercise routine? Take advantage of the recent snow and try something new like snowshoeing or cross country skiing for a fun exercise to get you moving during the winter months. Below orthopedic sports medicine surgeon and hip preservation specialist Thomas Wuerz, MD talks about some unique winter activities.


Snowshoeing is a low impact, inexpensive activity that can be easily accessible. Snowshoeing was originally designed as a method to walk over the snow. The shoes disperse weight over a wide platform to prevent people from sinking in the snow.  Snowshoeing is an adaptable sport that you can choose to do at your own pace and activity level. Snowshoeing is great exercise that builds strength, agility, endurance and balance while providing a cardio workout.

This activity can be done on different surfaces which provide different levels of intensity and difficulty. The varying surfaces can increase the intensity of your workout.  But first you will need the right equipment. There are two kinds of snowshoes available: plastic or aluminum. Both have spikes to provide traction, a breaking bar and side rail. Some have heel lifts to help provide a more balanced step when hiking uphill. Shoes vary in length, longer ones help when on steep terrain.

Snowshoeing can be done on flat, rolling or mountainous terrains. Flat surfaces may be best for beginners as this typically is easier to hike across. Snowshoe trails also provide opportunities for beginners as snow is more compact and easier to move on.

Cross country skiing

Another winter activity that can get you moving outdoors is cross country skiing.  Gliding on skis provides an aerobic workout that utilizes your whole body, working your muscles, and building strength for your arms, back and core.  This exercise is typically done on flat surfaces, with many ski resorts offering trail networks. Skiing provides an intensive workout as skiers use polls to push themselves forward. Specific skis that are are long and thin with a special surface providing traction and the heel free to move are used.

Both snowshoeing and cross country skiing are activities that not only provide exercise but can offer unique ways to enjoy the winter.  You can take advantage of seeing scenery that you might otherwise not have had a chance to travel on. Both can also be enjoyable social activities for all ages and activity levels.

Always talk to your primary care physician before starting a new exercise, particularly if you have any medical conditions.

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