You now have a new excuse to validate your skiing obsession! While it’s hard to determine exactly what leads to a long, healthy life, we can draw a few conclusions. Life Extension’s latest data life tables provide plenty of data to nerd out on, so here we go.
Let’s start with the average life expectancy at birth in the United States.
As we can see in the data above, states that boast plenty of outdoor recreation, such as skiing, hiking, climbing, etc. tend to have a higher life expectancy. Now, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation as there is a multitude of factors to consider when evaluating life expectancy, but it gives us a start to look into the effect outdoor recreation has.
The next table factors two different rankings to create an overall ranking. It combines both life expectancy and healthy lifestyle ranking to create an overall ranking. Healthy lifestyle ranking is based on a variety of factors, including physical activity, obesity, diseases, and more. Factoring both rankings is designed to create a general quality of life ranking.
The data above shouldn’t be surprising since the healthy lifestyle rankings by nature directly correlate with life expectancy, but it does help us narrow down longevity indicators. One of the indicators in the healthy lifestyle rankings happens to be the percentage of people who are not physically active. Below is a map that presents that data.
The map above shows the top four states (Colorado, Utah, Vermont, Washington) in physical activity and all four of those states are major destinations for outdoor recreation such as skiing, hiking, climbing, and other mountain activities. Although mountain recreation is just one of many ways people get their physical activity in, it definitely contributes to an overall healthier lifestyle.
To further break down the importance of exercise as a life expectancy indicator, the CDC listed the most prominent indicators of life expectancy. Exercise stands at the top of the list proving how vital it is for longevity. I don’t know about you guys, but this is enough for me to explain to my boss that I need to take the next pow day off to better my health.
Okay, I get it, this data is fairly vague, and while it might be enough to reassure you that getting on the slopes once a week is good for you, it might not convince your mom that you have to skip Aunt Judy’s birthday party. This is where we bounce from CDC’s general longevity studies and into peer-reviewed studies that explain some of the specific health benefits of skiing.
The first study we will look at is “Cross-country skiing and running’s association with cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality.” I understand cross-country skiing is not quite as popular as downhill skiing, but it delivers valuable information. The study shows a benefit of cross-country skiing is reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which lowers one’s mortality rate.
CNN Health takes a dive into the effects skiing has on anxiety and they source a study from frontiersin.org. The release of endorphins during exercise can help to improve mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. James Maddux, a professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University said this on the benefits of outdoor exercise.
“Exercise can be a mental distraction from worrisome thoughts. We also know that being out in nature generally enhances our sense of well-being, so exercise that takes place outdoors, such as skiing in this study, should be especially helpful…”
“Engaging in a period of exercise can lead to a sense of accomplishment and a greater sense of self-efficacy (or self-confidence) that can lead to lower anxiety.”
Millions of people battle with some form of cognitive issue like Alzheimer’s Disease. Skiing has been shown to help improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Studies have shown that regular exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is important for memory and learning.
Maintaining balance and coordination is a major key to extending one’s longevity, as a simple fall can cause a rapid decline in your health, especially in old age. Skiing helps to improve balance and coordination, which can help to prevent falls and injuries in older adults.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are so many factors that contribute to longevity, and we’ll continue to search for the secret to a long, healthy life. But there comes a time when we stop looking for the golden ticket and go live our lives. So, if you take anything from this, I hope it’s to close your laptop and hit the slopes, pick up a new sport, or go on a walk… it’s good for you!