Health Benefits of Three Great Winter Sports: Snowboarding, Downhill & Cross-Country Skiing

One of the best parts about winter is the opportunity to get out in the mountains and go skiing or snowboarding. Not only is it a lot of fun, but winter activities burn lots of calories and have many health benefits. Don't become a couch potato just because the weather is a little cooler, get out and play!

Skiing near Leadville, Colorado.
K.C. Dermody

Here is a look at three major winter sports and the benefits your body will receive.

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is one of the healthiest activities you can do. The sport requires you to use both your major upper and lower muscle groups, all at the same time, as well working your heart. Cross-country skiing is one of the best endurance sports, and you'll quickly increase your ability to participate longer in strenuous activity.

This sport is an excellent cardiovascular activity, and you can burn as many as 950 calories per hour by participating. If you'd like to get your body prepared before you hit the snow, an elliptical trainer is one of the best pieces of exercise equipment you can work out on.

Snowboarding

Even if you haven't mastered the sport of snowboarding, you'll still burn lots of calories and receive health benefits while you learn. The sport is an intense calorie burner, and you'll burn up to 450 calories an hour.

You'll work your abdominal muscles for balance, as well as your calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings. You'll also improve your flexibility as the sport requires quick changes in direction as well as balance. Your arms get a work out too, as they are used to help keep you up on your board.

Downhill skiing

Downhill skiing requires smaller bursts of energy, though you'll still get a good cardiovascular work out. Walking and carrying your ski equipment will get your heart rate up, as well as going down the mountain. The average person can burn from 360 to 500 calories per hour.

Of course your leg muscles get to do the majority of the work. Your legs will work hard to keep you up on your feet and balancing on your skis, you'll work your hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, and hips. You'll also build core strength by using your abdominal muscles. The sport is also good for improving flexibility and balance.

K.C. Dermody has been an avid runner, hiker, and yoga enthusiast for twenty years, and as a trained yoga instructor she taught a variety of students from senior citizens to competitive athletes. She enjoys combining her passion for sports, emotional and physical well-being with her love of writing.

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Updated Thursday, Oct 20, 2011