Living

Take a hike!

Zap calories and stress with a snowy hike

Winter hiking is a wonderful way to stay in shape while enjoying the crisp air and snow-laden scenery. As a bonus, winter hiking burns more calories than regular walking. “Tramping through snow is a harder cardiovascular workout than walking on dry land,” says Jim Vance, executive director of the Nova Scotia Trails Federation. “If there is any significant snow cover, it slows you down and is very energy consuming. You should reduce your distance to allow for this.” Walking in the great outdoors in cold weather does require some extra precautions, however, so follow these tips:

Bring a friend (or two)
Whether you’re hiking along urban or wilderness trails, go with a group for added safety, suggests Todd Bardes, president of
Hike Ontario, a federation of 23 hiking clubs. “Most people who join our clubs do so for the camaraderie,” he says. “We often go out for a hot cup of cider afterwards.”

Take your time
On snowy days, it may take twice the amount of time to walk the same distance on a dry day. “You’ll tire more quickly, so you’ll probably need to take more breaks,” says Vance. “Allow yourself plenty of time to return during daylight, and make sure others know where you’ve gone and when you expect to return.”

Pack right and light
Take water to stay hydrated and snacks to maintain your energy throughout the hike. Also, carry a small emergency kit with a fire source and a thermal blanket – about the size of a deck of cards, when folded – to help retain heat if you get off course.

Choose your route carefully
Many wilderness trails aren’t maintained over the season, so exercise caution. “Slipping would be the main concern if the snow and ice aren’t removed,” says Vance. To maintain balance, carry a walking stick or hiking poles. A pair of removable cleats for your shoes may help on icy streets. Make sure you pick up a map, too, even if you know the trail. “On most established trails, the route is quite clear,” says Vance, “but snowy conditions can disguise trail markers so a map helps you stay aware of where you are at all times.” For information on winter hiking destinations in your community, visit the
Canadian Volkssport Federation, which organizes non-competitive walks through scenic suburban and urban routes across Canada.