Is Snowmobiling Good Exercise? It Depends.

Is riding a snowmobile exercise?

     Curiously, the answer to that question was demonstrated to me recently while sitting on my couch with a remote control in my hand. This is a bit of a stretched analogy, but stick with me for a second.

      On the local Fox Sports affiliate that night was a game featuring the Minnesota Twins baseball team. Over on the Versus network, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs were on. Big dilemma for a sports geek like me.  You see, I’m a bigger Twins fan than I was of either of the teams on Versus, but I’m a bigger hockey fan than I am a baseball fan. Let’s just say the remote control got a workout.

      Speaking of workout, the pace of the two games resulted in significantly different levels of exercise for participants in the two sports, and the pace allowed me to more or less watch both events. I’d watch one pitch on the baseball game, hit the “recall” button on the remote, then watch about 13 seconds of hockey. Then the “recall” button would bring me back to the Twins game for one more pitch.

      The experience fully displayed why I love hockey and like baseball. The level of activity between the two activities couldn’t have been much different. In the baseball game, the pitcher would fire the ball toward the catcher. The umpire would make his call, and then time would pass as the ball would be returned to the pitcher while the hitter would step outside of the batters box to adjust his gloves and spit a few times. Next the pitcher paced around the mound a bit before finally settling in. The batter would step into the box and go through some gyrations while the catcher flashed signs. The pitcher would shake a few off before finally agreeing and, if he didn’t throw over to first base or step off the rubber, he would throw the ball again. In the meantime, all the players in the field stood around like mummies.

      In those same 13-or-so seconds over on the Versus, 10 hockey players were charging up and down the ice like their hair was on fire. Heavy checks were delivered in corners, players rushed toward the puck, hard shots were fired, dramatic saves were made. It involved constant, maximum effort and high speed action.

      How’s this tie to snowmobiling? Well, it occurred to me that night that some rides are like baseball — a slow or moderate cruise on an easy trail, where the heart rate rarely if ever tops 80. For some riders, that’s how they like to ride every time they go out riding – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, just like there’s nothing wrong with baseball.

      There are other rides, however, that are significantly more athletic, like a playoff hockey game. The player (or rider, in this case) is in constant motion, with heavy breathing, an increased heart rate and muscles in constant action. That rider is getting a workout. In fact, a now dated survey from the 1970s found that motocross racers were some of the best trained athletes in all of sports.

      If, when the trail gets gnarly rough, you speed up and attach the bumps like you’re in a snocross or motocross race, you’re getting good exercise. If you ride your snowmobile like your driving a Buick Riviera, you’re not getting nearly as much.  

      That doesn’t make one rider better or worse than the other, just different – like baseball and hockey. Most American sports fans prefer baseball, and there are certainly times I’m in more of a baseball mood. I happen to prefer hockey most of the time. One of the many good things about snowmobiling is that there are many different ways to enjoy the sport.

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