The freedom. The rush. The crisp air and the vast sky above. Few sports combine these feelings quite like skiing and snowboarding. Research shows that winter sports can do wonders for many aspects of health and wellness. Here are 15 scientifically proven benefits of tackling the slopes this winter:
1 Increases Longevity
An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and downhill skiing may help keep you in motion both on and off the slopes. Winter sports like skiing are strongly linked to a healthier overall lifestyle. You’ll strengthen your muscles, improve your coordination, and boost your body’s resilience to the cold. These benefits can lead to a healthier heart and lower risk of injury as you get older. Winter sports are also a great way to build friendships and strengthen family bonds. This is important because a healthy social life is strongly correlated with a longer lifespan.
2 Lowers Blood Pressure and Boosts Heart Health
Skiing and snowboarding are both great workouts that keep your heart healthy. Dr. Josef Niebauer of Paracelsus Medical University in Austria likens alpine skiing to a blend of endurance and resistance training. Think running and lifting weights. The cardiovascular demands of engaging your muscles skillfully while breathing in vast amounts of cold air result in reduced blood pressure and heart rate and increased metabolism and insulin resistance. The better you get and the more you challenge yourself on difficult routes, the greater the benefits to your heart.
3 Enhances Bone and Joint Health
In a two-year study comparing adolescent skiers to their sedentary counterparts, the former group showed significantly greater bone mass density, joint mobility, and leg strength. Having strong bones and joints makes movements like bending down, squatting, and running much easier. It also reduces the risk of injury. Numerous studies support that strengthening the body at a young age results in a reduced risk of pain and stiffness when older.
4 Kicks Your Metabolism into High Gear
While you may not sweat as much as you would in the dog days of summer, don’t let that fool you. Cold temperatures kickstart your metabolism, accelerating your body’s fat-burning ability. Your winter electricity bills are a great representation. It takes much more energy to stay warm in mid-January than it does in late May, and this principle applies to both heating units and the human body. Being active in the winter is refreshing and beneficial for your overall health.
5 Burns More Calories than Many Other Sports
When you compare all sports, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding may not burn the most calories per minute, but they tend to burn more calories overall. That’s because skiers have so much fun that they tend to spend an entire day on the slopes. Couple that with the increase in metabolism from the cold, and you have a recipe for fun and fitness. Whether you prefer carving skis, powder skis, park skis, or the board, winter sports will whip you into shape quicker than you’ll notice.
6 Helps You Get More Vitamin D
Hitting the slopes during the late morning through the afternoon is a great way to soak in the sun’s rays. Sunlight does more than keep you warm as you glide downhill; it also provides the essential vitamin D. This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium, a key component of healthy bones and joints. It also plays a major role in regulating mood and helping the body fight off infection. You may be surprised to learn that most people are deficient in vitamin D. The modern workday leaves few opportunities for taking in the sun, and winter tends to up our time indoors. Spending a few sunny days on the slopes may be just the cure you need.
7 Helps Beat Winter Depression
Winter often gets a bad rap for causing seasonal depression, a.k.a.. the winter blues. The good news is that embracing the winter can help keep you feeling great throughout the season. Researchers at Lund University found that skiers who took part in a cross country race were up to 50 percent less likely to develop depression and vascular dementia than their sedentary counterparts. The positive effects of winter sports have been shown to be safer and more effective at regulating mood than anti-depressants.
8 Does Wonders for Your Mood
Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, to improve mood and feelings of well-being. Outdoor exercise in particular has been shown to produce even greater mental benefits than working out indoors. A 2011 study conducted by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry compiled reports from 833 adults across 11 randomized and non-randomized trials. Most participants reported greater vitality, energy, and engagement from exercising in nature. They also reported significant reduction in negative emotions like stress and anger. So, get outside this winter, protected by the best ski goggles and sunscreen, to sharpen both your body and your mind.
9 Increases Your Energy
Humans evolved alongside nature. It’s no surprise that being in the great outdoors energizes the body and mind. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding activate the regions of the brain responsible for regulating mood and energy levels. The speed of descending a slope combined with the intense physical demands and breathing in fresh air will keep you feeling focused, alert, and positive even after you finish your session.
10 Helps You Relax
Physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Winter sports bring exercise, fun, and freedom together for an endorphin-packed experience. You don’t have to be an elite skier or snowboarder to reap the benefits. Once you learn the basics and find your groove, you’ll feel at once exhilarated and relaxed and you descend the slopes. The effect is similar to a runner’s high. This release of endorphins can improve your mood, patience, and ability to handle stressful situations.
11 Improves Balance and Coordination
Every sport requires a unique set of skills. Winter sports are among the best for improving balance and coordination. A 2014 study found significant changes in these skills among 43 beginner and 35 intermediate Polish skiers. The students completed a series of tests before and after attending a weeklong ski camp. Both genders and skill levels showed a boost in sensory and stability metrics. If you consider yourself clumsy, skiing or snowboarding may just be the remedy you need.
12 Boosts Your Cardiovascular System
A 2013 study of 1259 long-time downhill skiers found lower occurrences of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stress, and memory deficits. And it’s not just the exercise portion that begets these benefits. High altitude has also been shown to produce positive changes in the body. A 2002 study exposed 22 men to moderate altitude. At the end of the trip, all of the participants showed improved cardiovascular health, a higher metabolism, and a boost in HDL cholesterol (the good kind).
13 Strengthens and Tones the Lower Body
Don’t be fooled by the ease with which long-time skiers descend the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding require expert command of your core, hips, and leg muscles. You’ll need to engage all of these muscles to balance yourself, and adjust to the twists, turns, hills, and dips of various routes. The more you improve, the better the workout. Winter sports are an excellent way to build muscle without the monotony of going to the gym. Don’t let the cold turn you into a couch potato. Get out there, have fun, and get strong.
14 Helps Your Kids Be More Connected to Nature
Kids learn by example and pick up lifelong habits at an early age. Ten-year-olds who spend their days indoors are likely to become adults who do the same. Fortunately, kids who participate in outdoor sports like skiing tend to be more attuned with nature throughout their lives. The results are increased physical and mental well-being and a decreased likelihood of mood disorders. Kids who are comfortable playing outdoors are often more confident, outgoing, and sociable. These skills are strong predictors of success and happiness in adulthood.
15 Winter Sports Makes You Happier
Few experiences come close to the freedom of cruising down a snowy slope on your favorite powder skis with crisp wintry air blasting against your face. Indeed, skiing is proven to make you happy. A cross-section survey of 279 skiers and snowboarders reported a greater sense of well-being when engaged in their sport. The survey examined three elements of happiness: pleasure, flow, and involvement. Being in the flow was the strongest predictor of satisfaction. It’s the same reason why time seems to fly by when you’re fully engaged in something you love.
While not as publicized as football or basketball, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are a great way to stay healthy, happy, and fit. No matter your age or skill level, you can find a slope that’s right for you. It’s a great way to work out the body and revitalize the mind. It’s also a great way to meet new people and make lasting memories. And nothing beats relaxing in the lodge with a cup of hot cocoa after a full day on the slopes.