By Halle Thornton
Spending a day on the mountain with the family is a good alternative to staying inside and eating those leftover Christmas cookies.
Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to stay in shape and work off holiday dinners, desserts and drinks, but if unprepared, can lead to more than just a stomachache.
It is important to get in shape even before hitting the slopes, as being out of shape or unprepared can lead to injury.
Seth Cannello, fitness center director at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, said it’s a good idea to stay in shape throughout the year, as this decreases risk of injury while skiing or snowboarding.
“When you get tired you’re more likely to lose control,” he said. “If you crash, having a good core and being flexible are important to decrease the risk of serious injury.”
Cannello suggests cardio multiple times a week for at least 30 minutes a day, like running, cycling, swimming or using the elliptical, to increase heart strength and better prepare you for the increase in altitude and decrease in oxygen levels.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “a stronger heart doesn’t need to beat as fast. A stronger heart also pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body.
“Combined with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight and keep it off.”
Juli Yim, outdoor recreation director at Schriever AFB, said cross-country skiing in particular provides a significant upper body workout.
“In addition to getting people off the couch and working off all those holiday yummies, skiing or snowboarding can provide a significant increase in aerobic capacity, in addition to increased leg muscle power and strength and increased balance, which can help decrease winter fall risks,” she said.
Additionally, aerobic endurance allows sustainable physical performance for longer periods of time, maximizing the body’s ability to take and distribute oxygen to muscles efficiently.
To sum it all up, aerobic exercise can be the difference between taking one run on the bunny hill, or taking on black diamonds until the last lift goes up.
Yim added exercise boosts endorphins.
“In conjunction with play (yes, adults can play too) and a social atmosphere, exercise can provide a positive influence on psychological health,” she said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, aerobic exercise may ease depression, reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation. It can also improve your sleep.
With cold and flu season in full swing, Yim said exercise can also help boost your immune system, reducing the risk of getting sick and having to stay in the ski lodge.
Although skiing and snowboarding can be difficult at first, Yim said once you get over the initial falls, spending the day on the mountain with your friends and family can be a great way to celebrate the holiday season.
If you or your family members are unsure or uncomfortable skiing or snowboarding, most ski resorts in Colorado offer half or full day lessons, providing basic fundamentals of the sports.
Keystone Ski Resort offers ski and snowboarding lessons for ages 3-14 and 15 and up, for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Additionally, the resort offers kid’s camps and private lessons.
“While some of us beginners find it a little stressful in the moment, skiing and exercise in general can be a great way to relax,” she said.