Why ski­ing is the ul­ti­mate work­out

From strong ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles to leaner lower body, here’s why a hol­i­day on the snow could ben­e­fit your waist­line, says Liz Con­nor

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

SKI sea­son is about to be­gin, which means it’s time to dust off your padded pants and per­fect your snow plough.

Aside from be­ing a chance to switch off your emails and un­wind, a ski hol­i­day can pro­vide plenty of bril­liant ben­e­fits for the body too.

Whether you’re head­ing to fash­ion­able Lech, partylov­ing Ver­bier or low-key Mon­terosa, we’ve found some pretty con­vinc­ing rea­sons to get on board with a high-altitude work­out this win­ter.

1. It im­proves core strength

As well as re­quir­ing a good deal of courage, get­ting your bal­ance on the snow is es­sen­tial for ski­ing. En­gag­ing the core mus­cles, in­clud­ing the back and ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, is cru­cial for help­ing you to stay up­right dur­ing a down­hill ses­sion, as well as pro­tect­ing the spine from in­jury.

From nav­i­gat­ing rapid slalom turns to skid­ding to a stop, ski­ing in­volves lots of dif­fer­ent highly co-or­di­nated move­ments with in­tense bursts of tough mus­cle work. That’s why Olympic skiers have in­cred­i­bly lean but mus­cu­lar physiques, with in­cred­i­ble amounts of core strength to keep their body per­fectly aligned on the snow.

2. It can help you lose weight

It might not feel like it at the time, but ski­ing is also a very ef­fec­tive form of in­ter­val train­ing, in­volv­ing high­in­ten­sity ef­fort with pe­ri­ods of re­cov­ery. All that stop­ping and start­ing is not only a great car­dio­vas­cu­lar work­out for your heart, it can also help to shed any un­wanted win­ter weight.

This is be­cause, dur­ing a high-in­ten­sity phase, the body burns off carbs for an in­stant hit of en­ergy. Dur­ing the re­cov­ery mean­while, the body burns fat to help re­plen­ish it­self af­ter a hard ef­fort. Re­searchers have found this process can con­tinue for hours af­ter train­ing, help­ing you to con­tinue to lose weight long af­ter you’ve re­tired your skis for the af­ter­noon.

3. It boosts your mood

Breath­ing in lung­fuls of fresh moun­tain air, feel­ing the rush of it against your cheeks and tak­ing in the post­card panora­mas — there’s a rea­son why so many hit the slopes, year af­ter year.

As well as be­ing good for your waist­line, ski­ing is a great ac­tiv­ity for boost­ing your mental health. Stud­ies have shown that be­ing im­mersed in na­ture can lower blood pres­sure and lev­els of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight re­sponse.

Get­ting on a sunny slope can also give you a healthy dose of mood-boost­ing vi­ta­min D, which can help com­bat is­sues like sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der.

4. It can im­prove flex­i­bil­ity

If you haven’t got the pa­tience for yoga, a ski hol­i­day is ideal for im­prov­ing your flex­i­bil­ity. From ham­strings to hips, ski­ing is a to­tal-body work­out that helps loosen up any ne­glected mus­cles. As well as help­ing to re­duce aches and pains the day af­ter ex­er­cis­ing, in­creas­ing your mo­bil­ity, can help re­duce ex­po­sure to in­jury, too.

5. It pro­motes deeper sleep

There are no two ways about it: Ski­ing is se­ri­ously ex­haust­ing busi­ness. From be­ing on your feet all day to sidestep­ping your way along a moun­tain, the sheer amount of ef­fort re­quired to get from A to B on skis is guar­an­teed to tire out even the most unset­tled of sleep­ers.

Hav­ing an ac­tive life­style can help you nat­u­rally feel sleepy at the end of the day, and re­search has also found that reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, such as the day-in-day-out rou­tine of a ski hol­i­day, can help boost sleep du­ra­tion.

6. It’s a com­plete lower-body work­out

Ski­ing is one of the few ac­tiv­i­ties which will give your lower body a blis­ter­ing work­out. As you slide around the slopes, nearly ev­ery mus­cle is en­gaged to help you turn, bend, jump or sta­bilise your ski pose.

Be­cause your body is con­stantly in a crouch­ing po­si­tion, you’ll feel the burn in your legs, as you work your in­ner and outer thighs, ham­strings, quads and glutes. It’s a much more en­ter­tain­ing way of train­ing your lower body than hours squat­ting in the gym and you’ll reap the same leg­ton­ing ben­e­fits.

7. It can keep your heart in good nick

As it’s a mus­cle, just like any other, your heart needs to be worked to stay strong, oth­er­wise, you could be putting your­self at risk of a whole host of neg­a­tive health is­sues. Re­search has found an hour of down­hill ski­ing can be as ef­fec­tive as cy­cling or row­ing.

By get­ting the heart pump­ing at a faster rate on a reg­u­lar ba­sis through car­dio­vas­cu­lar ex­er­cise, you can keep ar­ter­ies clear by rais­ing ‘good’ choles­terol and low­er­ing ‘bad’ choles­terol lev­els in the blood.

Of course, fon­due and boozy apres ski tra­di­tions aren’t the most hearthealthy of rit­u­als, but when it comes to hol­i­days, much like ski­ing, find­ing the right bal­ance is key.

STAYINGALIVE:En­gag­ingth­ecore mus­cles, in­clud­ing the back and ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles, is cru­cial for help­ing you to stay up­right dur­ing a down­hill ses­sion, as well as pro­tect­ing the spine from in­jury.

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