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For a lot of skiers and snowboarders, a big part of the thrill is that you feel so good as the vacation goes on. You’re on a high, you can’t stop eating and you sleep like a log. What makes you feel like this?
As with any vigorous sport skiing and snowboarding will really test out your fitness. So many different parts of your body will be used, from your legs to your core, not to mention your heart and lungs. Consequently, the benefits are many, some physiological, some psychological, and some almost spiritual.
1. Burning Calories
Skiing and snowboarding are great sports for cardiovascular exercise. The exercise is ideal as the body has a chance to recover after each run, so it’s a form of interval training. It’s not unusual for a recreational downhill skier to burn between 300-600 calories per hour but this is only the time spent skiing, not on the chairlift. The ability of the skier or snowboarder also makes a difference.
An expert skier or snowboarder will have a much more efficient technique and consequently burn fewer calories. Cross-country skiers burn more calories because they are constantly striding across mostly flat surfaces with no breaks for chairlifts. Consequently, they can easily burn between 400-875 calories per hour.
2. Lower Body Strength
With all the bending, turning, and squatting required in skiing and snowboarding the muscles of your lower body will be repeatedly put to the test. In your legs, your hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles (butt) and calf muscles will all be strengthened. Any balancing or squatting movements will also help to strengthen core muscles.
Skiing researchers discovered the subtle small movements of the hips and knees make the muscle workout much more thorough than other sports, particularly in the leg muscles and the small support muscles around the knee.
3. Improved Flexibility
The repeated movements associated with skiing not only strengthen the core muscles they improve overall flexibility too. This helps to minimize sprains and strains, as muscles and connective tissue such as ligaments, tendons, cartilage are also more flexible.
By its nature snowboarding involves a lot more stretching, bending, and turning than skiing so it is particularly good at improving flexibility. However, flexibility isn’t a given – it is always best to warm up with stretches at the beginning and at the end of the day.
4. Core Muscle Strength
Skiing and in particular snowboarding involves numerous balancing techniques. Any activity requiring balance will engage the core muscles of the body and repeated activity will help to strengthen them too.
Your core muscles are located deep within the abdomen and back and attach to the spine or pelvis. Improving your overall core strength has plenty of benefits including a healthy back, which is less likely to injure as well as better posture and less chance of muscle strain. Building workouts before the season starts is key to avoiding injury.
5. Bones and Joints strengthen
When bones and joints are subjected to repeated physical activity, such as in skiing and snowboarding, the body reacts by strengthening them both to reduce the possibility of injury. Over time the bones thicken and become denser, so they are stronger. This process requires good nutrition with plenty of calcium and vitamin D. In the same way joints remain flexible and strong with less chance of osteoporosis and knee and joint injuries.
6. Boosts Heart Circulation
Your cardiovascular system carries blood, pumped by your heart, all-around your body. It has numerous vital functions including carrying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues around the body, as well as removing waste products and fighting off invading bodies. It is vital the system works efficiently and anything which helps to improve the efficiency is beneficial.
Skiing and snowboarding are strenuous sports, requiring repeated muscle activity, which in turn places demands on the heart to provide extra oxygenated blood and nutrients. As the cardiovascular system is used more and more it becomes increasingly efficient so you can endure a stronger exercise for longer.
You may notice if you have a cut on your hand that it heals a lot quicker if you have been doing lots of cardiovascular exercises.
7. Improved Insulin Resistance
The level of sugar in your blood is controlled by the hormone insulin. Insulin is made in your pancreas, and it helps to transfer sugar from your blood into the body’s cells. When cells become resistant to insulin, through overproduction, the sugar won’t transfer resulting in dangerous levels of sugar in the blood.
This can result in type 2 diabetes, as well as nerve and organ damage. Fortunately, the effect is reversible and aerobic exercise, such as skiing or snowboarding, is an ideal cardiovascular workout to repair the damage.
8. Improved Proprioception
Your brain learns all sorts of activities often without you even knowing. An example of a spatial activity is proprioception, which is the ability to instantly know and feel the position of each part of your body and what goes into making the move. To illustrate this if you close your eyes and hold your right arm stretched out in front of you should be easily able to direct your index finger to the end of your nose. This is proprioception.
As the body ages, this skill is gradually lost however skiing and snowboarding are excellent sports to recover skills. Skiing and snowboarding involve a lot of coordination and balance, and these are exactly the right activities to improve proprioception.
9. Improved Mood
It’s long been established that cardiovascular exercise improves people’s moods.
During vigorous exercise, the hormone, endorphin, is released into the bloodstream. Sometimes called the ‘runner’s high’ it gives you a euphoric, feel-good feeling for a time after exercise. Regular exercise also helps with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
10. Promotes Deep Sleep
The relationship between moderate exercise and good sleep has been widely studied and verified. Exercise appears to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep and shortens the time during the night when you might otherwise be awake. Researchers also discovered that regular exercisers also have a lower incidence of sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, and insomnia.
11. A Part of Nature
– Spending time on spectacular, snow-covered mountains, and valleys are therapeutic in their own way. Wild, unspoiled mountains have a particularly calming effect and when combined with the feelgood endorphins after vigorous exercise they promote well-being.
12. A Social Activity
Skiing and snowboarding bring together diverse groups of people from all over the world. The common desire to share techniques, learn and just enjoy the fun of being around other like-minded individuals is a very positive force, that brings people back time and time again.