Ski season is about to begin, which means it’s time to dust off your padded pants and perfect your snow plough.
If you’ve already booked your next getaway somewhere snowy, you’re probably looking forward to topping up your tan and enjoying the apres ski vibes with a glass of Gluhwein.
But 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, party-loving 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 coordinated 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 high-intensity 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 in general can help reduce the chance of injury, too.
5. It promotes deeper sleep
There’s no two ways about it: Skiing is seriously exhausting business. From being on your feet all day to side stepping 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, as well as quality.
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 simply 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 leg toning benefits.
7. It can keep your ticker 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 – and research has found that an hour of downhill skiing can be just 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 heart-healthy of rituals, but when it comes to holidays – much like skiing – finding the right balance is key.