One quintessential winter sport or hobby is skiing. Often lumped together with snowboarding under the umbrella of winter sports, including hockey, skating, and others, skiing is also extremely popular. In the 2020-21 winter season, there were roughly 10.5 million skiers and snowboarders in the United States.
Skiing is a popular sport for plenty of good reasons. Not only is it fun, but it can provide some heart-pounding excitement as you go whizzing down the slopes. If you’re looking for a healthy way to spend your winter months, skiing may be a smart choice.
You may not consider skiing to be an intense workout, but as anyone who’s spent a day on the slopes can tell you, you’ll be exhausted afterwards. If we’re looking specifically at how tough of an exercise it can sneakily be, we can dig into calories.
For traditional downhill skiing, the average person can burn anywhere from 250 to 600 calories per hour, depending on the intensity. Cross country skiing can burn around 400 to 650 calories per hour for the average person.
Outside of burning calories, skiing is a great workout because of the regions of your body it exercises and strengthens. Depending on how you’re skiing, it can be a full body workout!
While you certainly can get a good upper body workout from skiing, it’s most effective at strengthening two key areas of your body — your lower body and your core muscles. Think about the actions involved in skiing. The entirety of both legs is needed to steer, as you apply pressure to propel yourself one way or the other. Your core muscles, along with your legs, are critical to keeping your balance as you fly downhill on uneven terrain and slick environments. Skiing is a constant workout for those muscle groups.
As your leg muscles become stronger, it becomes easier to balance.
This workout can even strengthen your bones and joints and improve your balance. As your leg muscles become stronger, it becomes easier to balance. Similarly, you’re training yourself to move on unstable or uneven terrain. This is so important for seniors, since falls can be dangerous and even deadly.
Your physical health isn’t the only thing that skiing can improve. In fact, there’s growing evidence that skiing can benefit your mental health. We’ve previously written about the ways simply being outdoors can uplift your mood. (While it’s possible to ski indoors, it’s not nearly as common.) And, exercise in general is known to have mental health benefits, including making you happier, combatting mental illness, and promoting healthy brain aging and proper brain function throughout your life.
While it’s not conclusive, it does hint that skiing may have a more positive effect if you’re just doing it for fun, instead of competitively.
One long-term study even found that skiers were significantly less likely to develop anxiety disorders than non-skiers over the course of the study. For women skiing, increased physical performance and speed was associated with a greater risk of anxiety than more leisurely skiing, though this was not replicated in men. While it’s not conclusive, it does hint that skiing may have a more positive effect if you’re just doing it for fun, instead of competitively.
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Skiing may seem like it has a steep learning curve that makes it hard to enjoy, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun. That’s what it comes down to — skiing is a fun, exhilarating hobby. The health benefits are a really nice bonus that make it a must-try if you have ski trails around you.