More Powerful Legs: Snowshoeing works nearly all of your lower-body muscles. Climbing targets the hamstrings, while going downhill calls on the quads.
A Stronger Core:Strong stomach and back muscles give you stability on the hill. To really work your core, use ski poles. "Then you'll be flexing and extending your core muscles-abs, obliques, lower-back and long back muscles-with every step and pole plant," Atkins says. "It's like doing thousands of mini-crunches every time you're out there."
A Hip-Flexor Workout:Skiers need strong hip flexors-which help you lift your legs-especially when they ski moguls or try to get a little air. "Most gym workout circuits don't do anything for hip flexors," Atkins says.
A Well-Toned Upper Body: If you use poles, you'll strengthen muscles in your chest, upper back and arms. For skiers, that means stronger pole plants, easier traverses and lower risk of shoulder injury.
Better Balance:The looser the snow, the hillier the terrain and the smaller the snowshoes, the greater the test of your balance.
A Cardio Boost:Unless you're on a hard-packed trail, you'll sink a few inches with each step. That extra effort makes walking or running on snowshoes an even better cardiovascular workout than a similar effort on solid ground (picture running on a sandy beach).
A Big Calorie Burn: Two university studies found that snowshoeing burns 450 to 1,000 calories per hour, depending on terrain, snow conditions and pace. That's nearly double the calories you'd expend in conventional hiking or jogging.
Atkins especially recommends snowshoeing for any skier who dreads the "work" in working out. "It can be social, and it gets you outdoors," he says. "It takes your mind off the drudgery and makes it fun to get fit."