While there are many snow lovers among us, for others the cold and gloom of winter can be a major deterrent to health and fitness.
Because opportunities for favorite outdoor activities, such as gardening, biking, or swimming, are diminished, fitness can sometimes fall to the wayside during winter. In addition, the urge to stay indoors means decreased exposure to sunlight, which can lead to deficiencies in Vitamin D and/or seasonal depression.
To escape both of these pitfalls, you needn’t look any farther than a beloved childhood pastime of winter: sled riding.
While zooming down a hill at breakneck speed might not seem like a workout, sledding can actually burn more than 450 calories per hour, much of it from trudging back up the hill once you’ve reached the bottom. But sledding has other benefits, too. By getting riders out into the sunshine, it can boost vitamin D levels, as well as exposure to full-spectrum light, which can improve energy levels and promote feelings of well-being.
Besides that, though, sledding is just fun, which has health benefits all of its own. Engaging in enjoyable activities acts as a kind of pressure release valve, helping to reduce stress levels. Reducing stress, in turn, can lead to lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, more energy, and a happier life overall.
In addition, sled riding is a relatively inexpensive hobby. You can find flying saucers or snow tubes in every grocery and discount store for less than $20, and even a steerable runner sled can be purchased for less than $75. It’s also possible to improvise a sled from household items. College students have been using cafeteria trays for decades.
Before you go out intent on reliving your favorite childhood memories, though, it’s important to take a few safety precautions.
– Always wear a helmet in case of collision. While there are no specific helmets just for sledding, a bicycle, skateboard, or ski helmet will work just fine.
– Be sure to dress in warm waterproof clothes, including gloves or mittens, snow pants, a winter coat, and snow boots.
– Don’t wear a scarf or any other article of loose clothing. These can easily get caught in a the sled and pose a strangulation risk.
– Choose a hill that has a long flat area at the bottom so you can glide to a stop.
– Do not sled on hills that end near a street or parking lot.
– Sled away from trees, fences, large bumps, rocks, and other hazards.
– Never sled across a body of water, even if you believe it to be frozen.
– Only sled during the daytime or in a well lit area.
With all of that in mind, you’re ready to enjoy one of the most timeless, and healthiest, winter pastimes. Wheeee!