Alpine skiing is one of Canada’s most popular winter sports, with about 2.6 million people taking part annually. It has the double benefit of being both incredibly exhilarating and excellent exercise. It does come with risks though, so if you’re a regular skier, or considering taking up the sport, here’s what you need to know:
Benefits of Alpine Skiing
1. A mix of exercise types
Skiing is a great way to get some exercise, in particular because it combines both endurance and resistance training. This means that, compared to other sports, it packs more punch for the time spent; and it doesn’t even feel like work!
2. Boosts healthy heart
Research by cardiologists shows that alpine skiing is equivalent to cycling or rowing in terms of its benefits to heart health. A leisurely descent on a smooth run may not have quite the same impact as a heart-thumping hop through deep powder, but in either case you are helping your body to improve insulin resistance and glucose metabolism, lower blood pressure and lipids, and improve body composition.
3. Strengthens bones and joints
Skiing means bearing your weight on your legs, and using your knees to turn and move. This strengthens the larger muscles in the lower part of the body and the bones and joints in your legs, knees and hips. This can decrease the risk of osteoporosis and knee damage in the future.
4. Improves balance and coordination
Skiing is all about balance, and learning how to remain upright by using your core strength is a great way to retain your sense of balance as you advance in years – which can help you avoid falls. You also get to practice coordination and flexibility as you ski, which allows you to avoid strains and sprains more effectively too.
5. Boosts mood and improves sleep
Spending the day outside in the sunshine, breathing in the crisp air and experiencing the thrill of alpine skiing is sure to put a smile on your face. And the natural fatigue that comes after such exercise improves sleep duration and quality. Research shows that engaging in alpine skiing is also a great indicator of a generally active, healthy lifestyle.
Risks of Alpine Skiing
There is obviously a risk of injury when engaging in any type of skiing (or indeed any sport), but the risks can be significantly ameliorated by:
- Proper use of equipment
- Staying within your ability levels
- Consideration of the conditions
Changing weather, uncertain snow or ice conditions, busy slopes, or the presence of obstacles all make injury more likely and potentially more severe. It’s advisable, if you are a new skier, to take things slowly, remember to warm up beforehand and to stretch afterwards, and if possible seek the help of an instructor to ensure your form is designed to protect your body. Falling need not be injurious, as long as you know how to do it safely!