By Sean Zucker –
As the weather begins to chill and the last leaves of fall hit the ground, the incoming brisk air only means one thing for some: skiing and snowboarding is close. And as soon as the season’s first snow hits, the rush to the slopes begins. But what many see as simply a fun and exciting winter activity offers quite a beneficial boost for minds and bodies.
Shape, in fact, advocates picking up skiing and snowboarding for the same reason anyone would go the hit the gym or take a jog. It’s a great way to burn calories. The magazine notes that an afternoon spent skiing or snowboarding will, on average, burn off about 740 calories. That’s roughly the same as an hour-long spinning class but it’s a lot more fun. Skiing and snowboarding also works gives leg muscles a better workout than bike pedaling does, while strengthening a person’s core.
The act of trying to balance on a moving platform causing constant wobbling is the key. The process actively engages stabilizer muscles in the body’s core. Additionally, each run down the hill triggers glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves in one intense and long isometric contraction to remain balanced and avoid a face full of snow. Shape also highlights the increasing health benefits gained as snowboarders and skiers improve their skills and attempt more challenging and strenuous runs.
“Once you’re comfortable with the basics, there are a ton of ways to up the adrenaline. For example, trying out a new mountain or resort can make the sport feel totally fresh,” it reported. Shape also suggests hardcore workout are found in the backcountry but is quick to encouraging signing up with a guide service to tackle these adventures. “…there are no lifts to get you back to the top of the mountain, you’ll hike up, which makes for a full day of pretty impressive exercise,” the magazine adds.
The benefits of snowboarding and skiing go well beyond providing impressive physical workouts. They are also a great tool for boosting mental health. Last year, Sweden’s Lund and Uppsala universities released a study that found the snow sports significantly reduced depression. The findings were based on data drawn from 200,000 participants of a long-distance cross-country ski race during a twenty-year period from 1989 to 2010. Compared to a comparable group that didn’t hit the slopes, the researchers found that skiers were over 50 percent less likely to suffered from depression. The study also indicated skiers had a much lower risk of developing vascular dementia as well.
The mental benefits from skiing and snowboarding appear to align with other research and insights on how exercise can improve overall mood and wellbeing. TIME underscored the point in interviewing Dr. Josef Niebauer, a professor of sports medicine and cardiology and director of Austria’s Institute for Molecular Sports and Rehabilitation Medicine. Niebauer noted skiing provided the dual benefits of exercise and exposure to nature. “Being active in a beautiful outdoor environment can’t be topped,” he reported. “Skiing is more than just a sport—it comes with lots of positive effects on the skier’s wellbeing and quality of life.”
TIME also pointed out that skiing offer not only a rigorous workout, but a unique one by targeting areas and muscle groups in awkward places. It reported the combination of coordinated efforts to carve, skid, jump or turn quickly amplify eccentric, isometric and concentric muscle work that’s rarely seen in other activities.
Okay, checklist: skiing and snowboarding are fun, exciting and admittedly glamourous. But they’re also a great body workout and a mind boost.