It’s official. New research proves that skiing is good for you. Although how good depends in part on your skill level, how hard you push yourself and the types of terrain you tackle on the slopes, reports Time.
“Alpine skiing is a mix of endurance and resistance training,” says Dr. Josef Niebauer, a professor of sports medicine and cardiology and director of the Institute for Molecular Sports and Rehabilitation Medicine at Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria. “It has positive effects on the heart and circulation, as well as peripheral muscles—predominately the legs.”
Niebauer’s research has shown that downhill skiing roughly equates to cycling or rowing workouts. Of course, hopping through deep powder will push your heart rate higher than a leisurely slalom down a groomed run. But he says that all types of downhill skiing (and cross-country, too) offer cardio-metabolic benefits, including improved insulin resistance, body composition, and glucose metabolism, as well as a drop in blood pressure, blood lipids and heart rate.
Skiing is also a form of interval training, which has lately become one of the hottest fads in the fitness world. After pushing yourself for anywhere from 20 seconds to 15 minutes during a run, you get a nice break as you ride back up the hill. A growing body of evidence suggests this on-off style of training—working hard for a few minutes, then taking a breather—can provide a range of benefits, from extending your life to improving your fitness levels.
It’s not only the physical activity that’s good for you. Just being outside, in the mountains, is known to have beneficial effects on mood and well-being. And being in the cold is proven to be a catalyst for fat-burning.
Be aware, though, that any activity that pushes your heart can also imperil your heart. That’s true for running, cycling and swimming. And skiing is no different. But assuming your heart is in good enough shape to handle exercise, the benefits of skiing “far outweigh” the risks, Niebauer says.