12 Benefits of Skiing and Snowboarding
It’s a good workout that provides numerous benefits to your health, mental well-being, and quality of life. In fact, being outside in general is good for you, as evidenced by the emerging field of ecotherapy in which psychologists incorporate nature-based treatment into their practices. It turns out that “NatureRx” is one of the best medicines—and bonus, you don’t need a doctor’s order to spend more time outside.
To better understand the many benefits of skiing and snowboarding, we reached out to Joshua Cohen, a registered nurse and longtime ski patroller at Bridger Bowl in Montana. Here are 12 of the top benefits we discussed.
1. Improves Your Balance
“From your core muscles to the small and large muscle groups of the lower legs, the dynamic motion that our body is going through while skiing improves balance and stability, both important factors as we move through our daily lives,” Cohen explains.
According to a report in the “Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports,” 12 weeks of skiing profoundly impacted the health of 60- to 76-year-olds, leading to a significant increase in their balance, along with aerobic capacity, strength, and power.
2. It Strengthens Your Muscles
3. It Burns Lots of Calories
As to which is a better workout, skiing or snowboarding, that’s a serious debate best discussed over a beverage at your next après-ski. The two snow sports are rated equally in terms of calorie burn by the Compendium of Physical Activities, a database that calculates the energy expenditure of sports and activities. Cohen notes that it’s all positive for your health in the end: “Skiing and snowboarding will engage the lower muscle groups no matter what type of sliding around you do.”
4. It Increases Longevity
Skiing is also an activity you can often do into old age. It’s a great adaptable sport in that you can control how fast you want to go, how hard you want to work, and how much impact you want.
Cohen surmises that “Skiing is not just a young person’s sport. The enjoyment it brings is no doubt a reason that many people ski late into their lives, having lived a healthy lifestyle for many years.”
5. It Boosts Your Mental Health
Research has shown that people who ski or snowboard are likely to have favorable psychological effects, which can be linked to general human well-being. Participants in a qualitative study of freeride skiers stated that they are motivated to engage in their sport by regularly experiencing pleasure, freedom, nature, challenge, balance, and social interactions. Results indicated that “improvements of psychological well-being during and after skiing may be explained by the mere exposure to nature, by the effects of skiing itself, and by the interaction of these variables.”
6. It Helps You Lose Weight
“It’s exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise,” Cohen explains. “When I’m outside enjoying the fresh air on the mountain, I’m not thinking, ‘I have to exercise to stay healthy.’ I’m just enjoying myself, which makes the workout so much more enjoyable. When you initiate an exercise program because you’re doing something fun and exciting, like skiing, the exercise doesn’t feel like a chore.”
And remember, even when the ski resorts are closed, Mother Nature’s gym is open 24/7, with no annoying sign-up charges.
7. It Enhances Circulation
8. It Offers a Great HIIT Workout
“Skiing and snowboarding provide the body with a short high-intensity workout while our muscles lengthen and shorten through the exercise, giving us isometric, concentric, and eccentric benefits for our muscles,” Cohen says. “Because we can stop along the trail and enjoy a chairlift ride, the short-interval exercising we do allows us to gain more endurance overall. Getting the benefits of these popular gym workouts while having fun in the fresh air makes it seem like you’re not ‘having’ to exercise.”
9. It Improves Your Overall Health
"You’re exercising your heart and lungs when you’re skiing in the form of anaerobic and aerobic energy, strengthening the cardiopulmonary system, helping to lower unwanted lipids, and stabilizing glucose levels,” Cohen explains. “Our bone strength, balance, and stability improve, too, because skiing and snowboarding require the use of many muscle groups, leading to the protection of our ligaments and tendons. Even our central nervous system is working while we ski as neurons ‘talk’ to our body while we move.”
10. It Builds Community
And best of all, it’s an intergenerational activity that people of all ages can enjoy. It’s not uncommon to see lift lines filled with groups of teenagers next to clusters of octogenarians—and parents having the same fun in the snow as their children. On the slopes, the only thing you need to share is a love of sliding on snow.
11. It Enhances Self-Confidence
Cohen says, “I associate the confidence I have in my life with the fact that skiing has nourished me over time with the ability to believe in myself, to challenge myself, and to understand that I can overcome difficulties through hard work and determination.”
12. It Makes You Happy
“I have been skiing since I was 3, and there is no place that I am more comfortable and happy than being on the ski slopes,” Cohen says. “Skiing has allowed me to be healthy without even trying because I get so much enjoyment from it. When I think back to the best times of my life, I easily picture moments I have had on the ski hill with family and friends.”
Research has shown that skiing is associated with pleasure, ultimately leading to a feeling of satisfaction in those who participate.
“If you look around a ski hill, it’s easy to see the happiness that everyone is experiencing. From the youngest to the oldest people out there, happiness and joy are the overriding emotions,” says Cohen.
Ready to prepare for ski season?
“Riding a bike or walking with some incline are both excellent ways to start working some of the muscle groups you’ll use skiing and snowboarding,” he says. “Yoga is also a great way to build some core strength and flexibility that will help you on the mountain.”
Here are some resources to help you get started this ski season:
- For more specific info on the best workouts for skiing, read our guide on how to prepare for ski season with advice from Olympic skier Alex Ferreira. Or learn more about how to train for cross country skiing.
- Find the answers to frequently asked questions about skiing and snowboarding or get vacation ready with tips to plan the perfect ski trip.
- Lastly, you can read our guides on how to be a better skier or how to be a better snowboarder.