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It's that time of year!
Here in the northern hemisphere, it's quickly becoming that time of year when we all bundle up and watch the news forecast daily to see if and when and how much snow will come our way.
Some people cringe when they hear that snow is coming, but for those fortunate enough to live near mountains or large hills, they eagerly anticipate the snow forecasts so that they can hit the slopes!
Most of us know that skiing is a great total body workout. But, there are some other fantastic reasons why skiing can help our overall health. (Many, if not all, of these reasons also apply to snowboarding!)
Here are seven great reasons to consider adding skiing to your fitness journey!
1. Skiing improves your balance
Skiing requires a number of muscles and an insane amount of coordination to get down the hill successfully. Skiing also requires an amazing amount of balance.
Balance is something we don't think about--unless you spend your day watching a bunch of one-year-olds learning to walk. It's something we take for granted, but it becomes increasingly important as we get older.
As we age, we lose muscle strength, vision, sensory perception and hearing--all of which contribute to our sense of balance and can lead to an increase in falls and fractures. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 1 out of every 4 Americans 65 years of age and older will experience a fall this year.
Falls are the primary cause of injury deaths among those 65 and older--almost 30,000 a year in 2016. And, as you age, the statistics worsen: adults 75 and older who've fallen are four times more likely to be placed in a nursing home for a year or longer.
Every day, we're getting a little bit older and while we may not need to think about ordering the senior platter at IHOP just yet, those days are coming. Being intentional about utilizing and maintaining your balance now will help you in the years to come.
2. Skiing forces you to increase your water intake
Did you know that adults are 60% water and that our blood is 90% water? Water is a basic building block of our body and we need to stay hydrated just to function properly.
Water also helps to lubricate your joints. Cartilage, which surrounds your joints and is found between the discs of your spine, is made up of 80% water. Long-term dehydration can decrease a joint's shock absorbing ability and lead to joint pain.
Yes, any exercise will force you to increase your water intake, but skiing is unique in that, not only are you replenishing water you've lost from sweating under all of those layers, but you are also helping to ward off altitude sickness. Altitude sickness occurs when we move from closer to sea level to higher away from sea level and the pressure of air is lessened. Symptoms can include headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and lack of sleep. Usually, these symptoms disappear in a day or two (if not, seek medical attention), but drinking water can help them be lessened or not appear at all. Ski passes are expensive--don't lose out on a day's worth of skiing by not being hydrated!
3. Skiing increases exposure to the outdoors
Obviously, skiing is an outdoor sport. But, what makes the outdoors an added benefit? First, forest trees and plants release anti-bacterial chemicals called phytoncides. These can activate immune cells in us that can help protect against viruses. Who doesn't want more help in keeping healthy in the wintertime?
Second, you know how you just feel better after being outside and exercising? That's not a fluke. Studies have shown that those who exercise outside have less anxiety and depression and more post-exercise endorphins than those doing the same exercises inside.
Third, studies show that exercising outside is more restorative and relieves stress better than indoor exercise while modifying the body's stress response.
So, you can use your Nordic Track all you want, but for the greater benefits--mental and physical--you need to get on outside!
4. Skiing increases your flexibility
Just like balance, we don't think about flexibility until we no longer have it. When skiing, you want to be as flexible as possible as you twist and turn down the slope. Heck, you'll want to be flexible just to bend over to do and undo your boot straps throughout the day.
In addition, you need flexibility in your ankles and knees as you deal with bumps and twists (and for those adventurous souls, moguls!). You want to start your flexibility regimen before you even hit the slopes, however. Warm up your body and do a good stretch before you get to the chair lift (never stretch cold muscles--this can lead to damage rather than help). Stretching before and after exercise reduces tension and strain on muscles and leads to a decrease in soreness.
Flexible joints require less energy to move through a greater range of motion. This decreases your overall risk of injury and increases physical performance as well.
That flexibility for the slopes can come in handy throughout your days away the mountains, too. Enjoy a stretch and a warm bath after your day of shredding to stay flexible and ready to go the next day.
5. Skiing helps to increase sleep
As anyone who has skied before will tell you, after a day out on the mountain, you should have little to no trouble getting to sleep that night. One reason is that skiing allows you exposure to early morning sunlight, which helps shift the nocturnal exposure of melatonin, helping sleep to occur easier. That, along with the amount of exercise and the fresh air you're getting throughout the day should put you into dreamland in no time.
But, why is sleep so important? While allowing the possibly to dream about your favorite Hollywood star, you, and being chased by Jello-wielding dogs in pencil costumes, it also helps to cut down on food cravings. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that lack of sleep increases cravings for unhealthy foods and frequency of snacking, while boosting total food intake. You're burning all those calories going down the hill; don't add more back by snacking when tired!
Also, lack of sleep is linked with increases in heart disease--not to mention, car accidents, work errors and other potentially serious mistakes. You need to be alert on the slopes, so make sure you're getting plenty of sleep before the next day's run.
#6 Skiing gives you the chance to overcome challenges
Here's a reason we don't often think about--skiing gives you the chance to overcome challenges.
Personal revelation here--I don't like heights and, the older I get, the more my "dislike" (read: terror) grows. Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to really experience skiing without getting in a chair lift and climbing many, many feet in the air on what basically amounts to a lawn bench in order to reach the top of the run. I spend the entire time on the lift hanging on to the side bar for dear life and trying not to look down and think about how far down that is and how much it would hurt if I slipped and fell and praying to God that this thing would go faster--but, not too fast--so we can get to the drop off point that much sooner and...also trying not to hyperventilate. (I am sitting at my computer getting anxious just remembering.)
But--and this is a big BUT--if I hadn't overcome my anxiety enough to get in the chair lift the first time, I would never have gotten to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, the thrill of making it down a blue slope, or just the feeling of accomplishment that I could overcome obstacles. This can translate into other areas of our lives too.
Ryan Holiday, in his book The Obstacle is the Way, says that, in order to overcome obstacles you often need to come up with creative solutions, focus on what's important, become tougher and stronger than we thought possible and discover who we are and what we're made of. Who wouldn't want more of that in their daily life??!!
Obstacles can rise up various emotions in us. Some relish the challenge, while, for others, the feelings of fear, dread or shame may appear. If we can get down that slope that challenges us--even if it's the bunny slope--we are in a better position mentally to handle the next challenge that shows up in our life (unless, you just want to curl up in the fetal position and lay there until someone comes and rescues you...I mean, there are choices here, but most of us want to get down the bunny slope without Ski Patrol's help).
Now, I'm not saying that you should immediately go out and put yourself atop a double black diamond without being prepared, experienced or with a partner, but don't discount how skiing can present to us and help us to overcome challenges. Remember that feeling when you're back home and faced with what seems like a mountain-sized problem.
#7 Skiing allows you to share time with family and friends
We tend to be very isolated and we don't make enough time in our schedules for those that mean the most to us. Skiing allows you to do this, but there are some additional benefits that you may not have thought of.
A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that collecting experiences makes people happier than collecting material possessions. When we have a good time with those that matter most to us, we treasure moments more than any souvenir we might purchase. Not only that, the experience does something to us personally. Laughter eases anxiety and reduces stress. Watching your skiing partner take a spill on the slopes or spill a drink on his/herself can cause laughter, which can make you feel better in the moment and also feel good remembering it later on in life.
Skiing, however, helps our brain in another way. Nerve cells in your brain are not typically replaced when they die. However, some studies have shown that nerve cells (neurons) in the hippocampus--an area of your brain involved with memory--can regenerate. These studies suggest that aerobic exercise helps stimulate the process. You can have even more brain cells to remember your amazing time on the slopes and room to create even more memories next time.
So, there you have it--7 ways skiing can benefit your overall health. Agree or disagree? Have more ideas to share? Just click on the comment button below and let me know. Be sure to sign up for our emails for more tips and tricks and great fitness fashions styles sent straight to your inbox!