How Skiing Affects Physical and Mental Health

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Several studies have shown that most people may be less active during winter. Sports like running, cycling, or swimming may not be very inviting when the temperatures drop and the days shorten. However, winter sports can be just as efficient in keeping us active and improving physical and mental health. Given the likelihood of being affected by seasonal affective disorder due to a drop in melatonin and serotonin, engaging in exercises that can boost mood is even more important.

Skiing is one of the best exercises to beat the winter blues and stay physically fit in a season when your instinct is to stay indoors and save energy. Skiing has many benefits for physical and mental well-being, from improving cardiovascular health and lower body strength to a better mood.

The first obvious benefit of skiing is that it is a great cardiovascular exercise helping burn calories and promoting weight loss. The calories burned depend on the type of ski practice and the skill level. For instance, cross-country skiing burns more calories than downhill skiing. However, with downhill skiing, steeper slopes help burn more calories because they require more work to maintain balance. Walking up the hill instead of taking the ski lift also helps burn even more calories.

Skiing helps strengthen the core and lower body muscles. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes benefit from the squat position while you engage your core to remain balanced. You must also engage your ankles and feet to maintain balance.

Aside from the muscles, the bones and joints also benefit from the exercise. While moving quickly and turning downhill, the knees must endure extra tension, which can help strengthen them. With time, stronger bones and joints reduce the chance of future joint damage and injuries.

Another benefit of skiing is improved proprioception, or the ability to perceive the position of each part of the body and the effort required to perform a specific movement. This ability tends to decrease with age, but physical exercise such as skiing can help preserve and improve proprioception. Coordination and balance play a key role in improving proprioception.

Skiing also has mental health benefits. The most immediate mental benefit of skiing is improved mood. Performing vigorous activities releases endorphins into the bloodstream, creating a sense of happiness and euphoria.

Furthermore, being surrounded by nature and sun exposure contributes to increased well-being. For example, researchers have found that being in a natural environment rather than an urban setting can help decrease anxiety and negative self-talk. Additionally, being outdoors improves memory functions, as proven by a study that tested participants' memory after a simple nature walk.

Finally, skiing, like any other physical exercise, can improve sleep quality. Exercise has an anxiolytic, analgesic, and antidepressant effect on the body. As a result, it contributes to more restful sleep.

Last but not least, skiing can be a great social activity. Regardless of whether people go skiing with friends or join a ski lesson and meet new people, being around others contributes to their emotional well-being. And while skiing is not risk-free, taking skiing lessons and practicing caution can reduce the chances of injuries.