Skiing and the Mental Health Benefits

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Making tracks through fresh powder is more than just a great workout. Did you know skiing burns at least 400 calories per hour? According to a 2019 study, this loved winter sport also offers some serious mental health benefits.

Those who participated in Vasaloppet, a 90-kilometer (55-mile) cross-country ski race, were diagnosed with depression at half the rate of non-skiers, found the Swedish researchers who followed 395,369 individuals for more than two decades and found. The fastest men experienced the greatest risk reductions.

The link between skiing and well-being

Study co-author Martina Svensson, a PhD student at Lund University in Sweden explains: “We know that skiers, compared to … the non-skiing general population, exercise more and have a more physically active lifestyle [and] it’s likely that the physically active lifestyle contributes to mental well-being,” “Skiers also spend a significant amount of time outdoors [and] the natural environment has been shown to help people cope with stress.”.

Spending as little as two hours per week outdoors can provide a significant mental health boost, no matter what kind of activity one practices, but it seems there is something special about skiing.

New researches found out that both skiing and snowboarding are associated with strong feelings of happiness and life satisfaction, but skiers showed higher levels of pleasure. Downhill skiers who hit the slopes on a regular basis had lower rates of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and dementia as was shown by research published in Frontiers in Physiology.

Altitude and cold temperatures seem to be the key

According to study co-author Martin Burtscher, MD, PhD, a professor of sport science at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, the cold temperatures and altitude might also help, too. He affirms: “Both stimuli may provoke some type of conditioning, resulting in improved stress tolerance or even promoting neuroprotection and neurogenesis,”.

Skiing offers some form of neuroprotection as shown by a study published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy. Long-distance skiers had lower rates of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than non-skiers found out the researchers.

Be careful, as skiing is not risk-free. Wear appropriate equipment, including a helmet, follow proper etiquette on the slopes and keep active during the off-season to maintain the strength and stamina required for downhill or cross-country skiing. Beginners should also consider taking lessons.

Burtscher concludes: “The health benefits from downhill skiing may not significantly differ from other sports activities,” “It simply represents an additional possibility (and variety) of physical activity during the winter season.”

Do you enjoy skiing? Is it a sport that contributes to you well-being?

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