Winter fun is a staple for living in Canada. It is a common sight to see people enjoying the great outdoors and doing activities like walking dogs, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and tobogganing. Not only is outdoor activity a coping strategy for those long dark days of winter – it has physiological benefits for both the mind and body. Let’s take tobogganing as an example and talk about how this activity benefits your heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and even your brain.
Have you ever noticed that you are a little short of breath after climbing up a hill while pulling a sled behind you? This phenomenon can be attributed to that shorter duration burst of physical activity followed by the rest at the top (and of course sliding back down).
Doing repeated bursts of higher intensity physical activity followed by a period of rest is known in fitness literature as interval training.
This form of exercise improves the health of your cardiovascular system (heart, lungs and blood vessels). Just remember, the key is to take enough time to recover and catch your breath at the top of the hill before plummeting back down and repeating the cycle!
Climbing hills makes us use our hip extensors, knee extensors and ankle plantar flexors (glutes, quads and calf muscles in other words).
These muscles are also used for walking and running under normal circumstances. Many athletes will use hill and stair climbing to strengthen these muscle groups for athletic performance. Tobogganing just makes this form of training a lot of fun at the same time.
Bones and joints
All physical activity strengthens our bones as well as the connective tissue and cartilage (smooth lining) in our joints. These benefits are enhanced by adding “resistance.” In the case of tobogganing, we are resistance training by carrying the load of a sled up the hill or by simply working against the resistance of gravity by carrying with the weight of our own body uphill.
When we exercise, our body produces chemicals called endorphins. When an increased level of endorphins circulate in our brain, we experience pain relief, pleasure and a sense of well-being.
So with all of this in mind, the next time you’re able to safely go outdoors for some exercise, grab your toboggan and hit the slopes for all of the physical, psychological and emotional benefits of exercising in the Canadian winter.
Remember to wear appropriate safety gear while tobogganing and don’t forget – if you are experiencing any physical discomfort and want to seek treatment, feel free to book an appointment online.
This blog originally appeared on Lifemark.ca and was written by Meg Smith, physiotherapist at Stonetown Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries Clinic.