Cross Country, or Nordic, skiing is recognized by athletes, Olympians, and researchers as one of the best, if not the best, workouts for the body. A compilation of health benefits from this sport undoubtedly increases one’s longevity. It does not matter however old or young you may be, nor does it matter if you’re an expert at cross country skiing or if you are stepping into the skis for the first time. This sport can fulfill your need for a fun, recreational hobby or an intense workout.
Put simply, cross country skiing is such a benefit to health because it is a total-body workout. While running and biking are great for endurance and leg strength, the upper body is neglected during these workouts. Weight strengthening is one way to focus on every muscle group, but this requires short bursts of energy unlike the endurance that is necessary to cover miles on a ski course. Cross country skiing burns more calories than most other physical activities, builds muscle in the core, the upper body, the lower body, increases lung capacity, and decreases the risk of heart disease.
Burn Those Calories
Depending on the style of skiing, this sport has the potential to burn more calories than almost any other physically exerting task. Harvard researchers put together a list of calories burned per half hour of various sports and physical activities. This data states cross country skiing burns nearly 298 calories per half hour for an individual weighing 155 pounds. On another list provided by the University of Indiana, calories burned per hour while cross country skiing was broken up into three subcategories: backcountry skiing, competitive racing, and recreational skiing. If you are wondering what the number one calorie burning activity was on the list, it is backcountry cross country skiing which can burn up to 1,122 calories in an hour. Competitive racing can burn up to 952 calories in an hour, and a more relaxed-pace of recreational skiing still can burn as much as 612 calories in an hour. Even without the other added benefits of skiing, the amount of energy this sport requires is enough to build a lean body.
Utilize All Your Muscle Groups
Cross country ski utilizes every major muscle group, which may come as a relief for those who try to target certain areas of their body during exercise. A combination of balance and coordination is required as the muscles repeat both pulling and pushing motions to maintain forward momentum, ensuring no muscle group is left unused. This also ensures that no single muscle group is under too much stress. In a book about the benefits of cross country skiing, authors Bridget Duoos and Anne Rykken breakdown how different movements and techniques work the body’s different muscles. The diagonal stride works biceps and triceps, the double-pole technique hits the core, pectoralis major, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, and a strong “kick” to finish the stride builds the quads and gastrocnemius. Even though nearly all the muscles in the body work as a unit to carry out this sport, injury is low because this is a low-impact sport. The free heel and toe hinge also make cross country skiers less prone to injury than downhill skiers. Just because your body is working, in some cases, twice as hard, does not mean you have to suffer the same injuries as many athletes do.
Boost Your Internal Health
As for the benefits that are less visible, cross country skiing promotes heart and lung health. Cross country skiers are found to have lower cholesterol levels. Their heart works more efficiently to pump blood in order to oxygenate the muscles, and rightfully so. Lung capacity also increases as a result of this sport to optimize the amount of oxygen transferred between the lung’s alveoli and the cardiovascular system’s capillary beds. One final health benefit you may not have considered is the increased Vitamin D intake from cross country skiing. In the winter, when there are so many reasons to remain indoors, remember this one reason to take yourself outside and be active!
Cross country skiing leads to a fitter lifestyle, decreases obesity, and it even takes care of the body’s internal organs. Unfortunately, most places lack snow for the full year, nor are there trails to venture off on. However, there are options to simulate this sport and the health benefits that come with it. The NordicTrack is an indoor ski machine that is designed to copy the motion of outdoor cross country skiing indoors. There are also roller skis that are a form of cross training for Nordic skiers in the summer. With all options considered, the health benefits of cross country skiing are available to anyone.