A part of living in Manitoba is the winter season. The temperatures drop and the ground becomes laden in a blanket of white - paving the path to fun! It is a common sight to see people enjoying the great outdoors. These activities can include ventures such as walking dogs, hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing. While all of these winter engagements have countless physical benefits on their own, we want to slide into the benefits of one for all ages - tobogganing.
While skidding down the hill the effort may be minimal, you got to get back up! Mounting the hills makes use of several different muscle groups. We use our gluteal muscles (hip extensors), quadriceps (knee extensors) and calf muscles (ankle plantar flexors). Not to forget to mention our core abdominal muscles!
Yes, we use these muscles everyday for walking and even running. But this type of climbing is so beneficial that in fact many athletes use hill climbing to strengthen these muscle groups for elite athletic performance. Tobogganing just makes this form of training a lot of fun at the same time. The steeper the incline the better the workout!
But muscles aren't the only structures getting stronger. This physical activity strengthens our bones as well as the connective tissue and cartilage (smooth lining) in our joints. By adding resistance this benefit is further increased! In the case of tobogganing, we are resistance training by simply working against the resistance of gravity by carrying with the weight of our own body uphill or by carrying the load of a sled up the hill.
Now when you've gone up the hill one time, two times or maybe three times... Have you ever noticed that you are a little short of breath after climbing? 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 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!
When we exercise, our body releases chemicals. One of these chemicals is called endorphins. When an increased level of endorphins circulate in our brain, we experience pain relief, general "feel good" and a sense of well-being. But the mental benefits stem from more than just the physical piece. Studies have even shown that the exposure to the outdoors can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.
So the next time you’re able to go outdoors for some exercise, grab your toboggan out of storage! Dust it off and hit the slopes! And don’t forget if an unexpected smack, spill, or slip sneaks up on you on one of those hills and you need help... Keep your local physiotherapist contact close!