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REHAB IN MOTION: Snowshoeing is great fun, excellent exercise

Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years.

And, obviously, the art of snowshoeing has become more sophisticated over time – now it’s considered a winter sport.

Modern day snowshoeing is made up of casual snowshoers who hike trails for pleasure, the snowshoeing enthusiasts who trek through the backcountry, and the competitors who race.

In the past couple of years, snowshoeing has become one of the fastest growing sports in North America.

Snowshoeing is a great activity.

The sport is easy to learn, inexpensive, poses little risk of injury and is a great way to exert energy during the cold winter months. It tones your entire body while providing an excellent cardiovascular workout; it strengthens leg and heart muscles (www.mamashealth.com/organs/heart.asp) and improves delivery of oxygen to the muscles (www.mamashealth.com/bodyparts/muscle.asp). Before you head out on the slopes you should do some warm up exercises and a lot of stretching.

Do your stretching before and after snowshoeing to minimize the pain.

Snowshoeing is a great way to stay healthy during the winter.

At moderate speeds, snowshoeing burns between 400-500 calories per hour. Snowshoers can burn more than 45 per cent more calories than walking or running at the same speed.

One of the nice things about snowshoeing is that you don’t need a lot of equipment to participate. A pair of snowshoes and some warm clothes are enough to get you started.

If you are thinking of getting into the sport, there are three types of snowshoes available: Recreational Hiking, Aerobic/Fitness and Hiking/Backpacking.

Recreational hiking snowshoes are a basic selection and are perfect for first-timers. Usually, these snowshoes work best on simple terrain that doesn’t require a lot of steep climbing or descents.

Snowshoes for aerobic/fitness are best suited for those who are active snowshoers – like runners and cross-trainers.

This type of snowshoe has a very sleek design and is generally tougher than most available.

If you like the powder and are more experienced with snowshoeing, purchasing a pair of hiking/backpacking snowshoes is your ticket. These are as tough as they come: Strong aluminum frame, durable material for flotation, and bindings that support all types of boots.

As with all outdoor winter sports there are always some cautions with snowshoeing.

First, remember to always leave your itinerary with a responsible friend stating where you will be and when you plan to return.

Second, don’t overdo it. If you feel tired then stop. Third, remember to have fun.

Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River: Willow Point, 923-3773; Quinsam (across from SaveOn Foods), 286-9670; Comox Valley, 334-9670; Port Alberni; 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit www.rehabinmotion.com

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