Five Healthy Reasons to Ski Cross Country This Winter

Five Healthy Reasons to Ski Cross Country This Winter

Posted by Steve Stearns; December 30, 2013

Health Benefits of Cross Country Skiing

Welcome to winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s brisk, bright and white in many parts of the world right now and if you’re settling in for a long winter’s nap, wake up! There are plenty of fun activities to enjoy outside during this time of year. One of my favorites is cross country skiing. I love it because It’s easy to learn, inexpensive, fun and great for your health. Here are 5 healthy reasons to try cross country skiing this year.

1. Cross Country Skiing is a total body exercise that improves strength, balance and coordination

Cross Country Skiing is a “nordic” style of skiing where you propel yourself across the snow using skis and poles. Unlike Alpine skiing, your heel is free allowing your foot to pivot at the toe in a more familiar walking movement. The classic stride is often referred to as a “kick and glide”. You use a lot of muscles to perform the kick and glide making cross country skiing a great winter workout.

The “kick” comes from the trailing ski which grips the snow and pushes back to allow the leading ski to “glide” forward. At the same time, one ski pole is used to pull back while the other swings forward to maintain momentum, similar to the way your arms swing when walking.

Cross country skiing requires coordination, balance and strength in order to coordinate all of these movements. Major muscle groups in your lower and upper body work to propel you forward along with stabilizing muscles in your core which help you maintain dynamic balance and coordination.

2. Cross Country Skiing Burns calories

If you’re looking to keep the weight off over the winter skiing cross country is an excellent activity that can help. Your body requires a lot of energy to power your ski muscles and that means you’re burning calories. In fact, according to “myfitnesspal”, one hour of moderate cross country skiing burns over 700 calories. Increase the intensity and you could burn as many as 1100!

3. Strengthen your heart

Cross Country Skiing is an excellent aerobic exercise that can help strengthen your heart. One unique aspect of the sport is that the workload is evenly distributed throughout your body and easily sustainable for hours. Maintaining a faster heart rate for a sustained period helps strengthen and condition your heart muscle.

A strong heart is more efficient at delivering blood to muscles in the body and over time cross country skiers find their resting heart rate decreases as they become stronger and healthier.

4. Cross Country Skiing is Low Impact and Easy on Your Joints

By skiing you can achieve a high level of cardiovascular activity without the jarring impact you might experience with other activities like running, jogging or hiking. Because it’s low impact and requires a small range of motion cross country skiing promotes healthy joints.

5. Great for your mood and sense of well being

All forms of exercise are good for improving mood but cross country skiing has the added benefit of getting you outside into the fresh air and sunshine. Gliding down a tree lined trail on a bright winter day can help you feel more connected to nature and provide a peaceful sense of well being. Cross country skiing puts a smile on your face.

Bonus benefit: It’s Fun!

Yes, fun is a health benefit. If it’s fun you’re more likely to do it and doing it is the only way to get all of the benefits listed above.

What if there’s no snow where you are?

Even without snow you can get similar benefits by Nordic Blading or Nordic Walking. Nordic Bladers use roller blades and poles to mimic cross country skiing in warmer climates where there is no snow. This is also a technique cross country skiers use to stay fit during the off-season.

Cross Country Skiing is a fun way to get outside, improve your strength, balance, and mood during the long winter months. So instead of taking that winter’s nap this year hit the trail on some skis for a fun healthy workout.

What’s your favorite way to stay active during the winter?

Steve Stearns is an avid outdoor enthusiast and host of the Outside Health and Fitness podcast.  He shares practical advice and talks with experts from the world of fitness, nutrition and health on staying naturally fit, active and healthy.
twitter: @sws0926