Snow and ice sports are largely considered to recreational, but they have some amazing fitness benefits too. Here’s a quick low-down on what winter sports can offer you:
Well, the weather has turned and it seems that we have officially entered autumn and are heading ever more rapidly towards winter. It may be the season of frost, wind and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (wait, that’s every season), but there are some benefits to winter that can affect your training routine. That’s right – winter sports. Snow and ice sports are largely considered to recreational, but they have some amazing fitness benefits too. Here’s a quick low-down on what winter sports can offer you:
There’s a reason Torvil and Dean look so good for their ages. Ice skating is great cardiovascular exercise and also helps with toning your legs and increasing endurance. For anyone using the ice to get in shape, there’s now a specific form of the sport called, imaginatively, ‘fitness skating’. Fitness skating involves more leg movements than the graceful figure skating form we are most used to seeing on television. It is also a great alternative to jogging or running. It utilizes your leg muscles in almost exactly the same way, but it’s far less stressful on your joints. In addition to training your quadriceps and hamstrings, skating has some benefit to your abs as well. The action of staying upright on the icy surface really works your core muscles. The downside is that you need to do a significant amount of skating to make any difference to your body: try racing or playing ice hockey to get the most from the sport.
The choice winter sport for everyone, skiing is about more than looking cool in your sunglasses and getting to enjoy the hotel’s outdoor Jacuzzi at the end of a day on the slopes. Downhill skiing is a good aerobic sport that helps improve circulation. It requires – and nurtures – both power and stamina. It also uses nearly all of your muscle groups: hamstrings and quadriceps for the actual skiing; abs and back muscles for balance; and triceps for using the poles. Some of the best skiers end up burning up to 690 calories every hour. That’s what I call a workout.
And you thought this was only for kids! Well, you’re partly right. You can’t burn calories just sitting on a toboggan, but you can by pulling one. In fact, that childhood sled that’s covered in cobwebs in your garage is a prime piece of outdoor gym equipment. You can do numerous exercises with one, from simply pulling it to doing triceps curls with it. You even add weights to it to make your workout tougher. Lighter loads are good for any athletes out there looking to increase their sprinting accelerations. A heavier weight is better for those of you wanting to increase your strength and works well as a pre-conditioner for more intense workouts. If you’re a parent you could even combine play time with training time and pull your child around. In addition to working out your legs and arms, pulling sleds increasing your muscle coordination. For an extra boost to your cardio and quads, find a slope to pull the sled up.
This uber-cool sport is even better for your muscles than skiing. In addition to working out your hamstrings, quads and calves, snowboarding exercises some of the lesser muscle groups such as the muscles in your ankles and feet. Of course it’s also great for working on balance, giving your abs a workout in the process. As if that wasn’t enough, snowboarding really helps to improve flexibility – good for fitness models who may need to hold some unusual poses for the camera. Normal snowboarders tend to burn around 500 calories per hour, but if you reach competitive level we’re talking up to 1260 calories per hour – that’s some serious exercise!
So if you needed an excuse to book a holiday to the Alps this winter, I think you’ve now got one. If you’ve already discovered the benefits of winter sports do let us know in the comments. We would also love to hear from you if you’ve already worked out a training routine based on different skiing or sledding exercises!