Sledding for fun and exercise

Winter is the time of year that seems to go on forever. Shorter daylight hours, cold temperatures and house-bound kids. When you and the kids do go outside, you wear so many clothes that your knees won't bend. It's hard to move, let alone exercise.

Aside from the showshoeing, cross-country or downhill skiing, there aren't many types of outdoor exercise that will tempt you to brave the cold. But there is one you forgot - sledding.

The "hand- pulled" method was used by your grandpa. Remember when you were young and a fresh snowfall was the best part of your day? Isn't it sad that as you got older you lost sight of all that sledding fun?

Imagine the calories you burn when you force yourself to have fun with a sled. Pulling a sled uphill will burn more calories than cross-country skiing, especially if you are the one who is doing the towing.

You can't enjoy sledding without climbing a hill, and climbing a hill with a 30- to 50-pound child on a sled will certainly be aerobic.

Even hauling an empty sled up a slope of fresh powder takes Herculean effort. When you were younger, you probably weighed less - probably a lot less - so now you have to haul your own extra weight up those hills, too.

Just keep remembering that you're working off those Christmas chocolates.

Walking uphill at 3.5 mph will burn between 480-900 calories per hour, depending on the terrain. Using snowshoes burns 600, but you don't get to use those snowshoes when you're sledding.

Now, here's the kicker: Large people, 170 pounds or more, burn 15 calories per minute when they jog. Smaller people, around 115 pounds or less, will burn only 12 calories per minute.

The same factors apply for most aerobic sports, including sledding. It stands to reason that a heavy person would have more trouble plowing through snow and climbing hills.

When the kids beg you to go outside and sled with them, consider the good points. Lots of laughs, lots of lost calories, and there are those hot toddies and fireplace afterwards.

Sledding is free, and you don't have to wait in lines. The whole family can participate, and you have a silly, happy experience and get a great workout at the same time.

The secret is to dress warmly, then find a hot tub and plenty of dry clothes to change into. Age is not a factor; some of my seniors still sled, and a whole lot of them still ski.

They just pick lower hills.

• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.

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