Health Benefits of Cross Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is undoubtedly one of the top Nordic sports that people take up for various health and fitness reasons. It entails navigating snow-covered mountainous terrain, with a whole lot of reliance on your physical strength and big powerful strides, as opposed to relying on the gravity to do the work for you – for example when you are sliding downhill.

What are the Main Benefits of XC Skiing?

Some of the major benefits of XC skiing include:

  • Burning lots of calories
  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Socialization with family and friends
  • Overcoming ‘Winter Blues’
  • Keeping warm in winters
  • Enjoying the beautiful nature in winter
  • Whole Body Exercise
  • Functional training
  • Stress Relief

For these reasons, and many others, cross-country skiing can be seen as an excellent way of regaining or maintaining physical and mental fitness.

Health & Physical Benefits

Winters are meant to be slow and boring. Staying active during this month can be a mammoth task for some. It is very easy to give in to the temptation of staying indoors and watching the idiot box accompanied by unhealthy eating habits.

Our body is also deprived of the all important Vitamin D during these months due to lack of sunlight. This vitamin is much needed for disease prevention, improving mood, development of bones and teeth.

It is for all the above reasons that taking up cross-country skiing, as a low-impact activity, can be a great idea, if you intend to stay healthy, with a mild risk of any injuries. The gliding movements tend to be smoother and movements are slow and steady, which means the joints do not have to endure excessive pressure.

The physical and mental benefits that can be derived from cross country skiing can be many. Let us look at some of these benefits:

Calorie Burning

If you dedicate sessions for cross country skiing, you are guaranteed to burn tons of calories, and eventually assist in weight loss too. That is because this form of skiing is a very demanding cardio outdoor activity.

You may be looking to lose weight generally or may be trying to balance out all those sugary treats you have been indulging in during winters and sumptuous holiday food. For all these reasons, cross country skiing can be an ideal solution to tackle winter weight gain.

By way of example, a 150 lb skier who takes up this form of skiing can look to burn around 600-700 calories of easy pace and easy terrain skiing for an hour.

If burning calories is one of your major goals, then country skiing can definitely assist you better than any other indoor activity during the winter period.

Whole Body Exercise

Cross-country skiing can be a challenging exercise form that involves a whole body work out, engaging core muscles in your body. The poles can strengthen your shoulders and triceps, and at the same time, engage your core and legs too.

Cross country skiing can be your perfect getaway for tons of fun in winter, and by the time winters are gone, you can have that ideal beach body – whether you can flaunt it by summer time is a different story altogether!

The constant arms and legs movement can tone your body and give it an athletic feel. These movements require a great balance. This ‘balancing act’ can activate your core muscles as well. All these aspects combine to give you a great full-body workout.

The muscles that have been neglected for a long time can also get the desired workout such as abs and your back.

Functional

The popularity of this sport is reflective in its simplicity and the health benefits associated with it. Anyone who can run can basically ski too! As a matter of fact, cross country skiing is not stressful on your body’s joints as compared to running. Besides this aspect, this is one of the healthiest outdoor sports that you can practice.

When you are out in the open skiing, you get exposed to the cool fresh air that is refreshing and cleanses your lungs and improves your blood circulation. It also strengthens the defense of your immune system defense. The nature around you along with the snowy mountains and winter wonderlands can be a relaxing and unwinding experience!

It can be the perfect physical and mental therapy after a long winding day at work – either all alone or with your family and friends. All you need is a slight push if you are feeling lazy and you will thank yourself later when you are out in the open enjoying the refreshing workout amongst the silent winter weather, surrounded by snow and woods.

The poles in your hand assist your upper and lower body to plough and kick into the snow, whilst gliding with the help of two thin skies.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Cross-country skiing guarantees you the much sought after cardio exercise that is often not achieved during winter. Even a brisk skiing session can get your blood pumping and optimize your heart health and overall endurance.

Your body will need oxygen from the air in abundance during this exercise. This inflow of oxygen can activate the heart rate real quick, and this is great for your overall cardiovascular health.

This type of aerobic exercise can help you prevent 3 major killers, i.e. heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer.

Other Benefits

Apart from the great physical health benefits of cross country skiing, there are certain other benefits that are mental health related or non-health related. Let us look at some of them. 

Relieve Stress

A break surrounded by the nature can do wonders to your mental health. You can de-stress in a matter of minutes once you get exposed to nature – as quantified by muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity.

Outdoor activity can have an uplifting impact on your mood, as opposed to sweating it out indoors at home or in a gym.

Cross country skiing is not a wildly popular sport and not many make the effort to go out in the snow with all the gear and clothing. If you do not like many people around you when out in the open, this is the perfect activity for you, as the trails won’t be always busy. You will have all the space you need to enjoy the ‘me-time’.

Social Engagement

The winters are notorious for having shorter days and less day light. A lot of people feel down and depressed during this seasons. That is also due to the fact that social life, for a lot of people, gets hit, as everyone is confined to their comfortable indoors. This can trigger seasonal depression and to get rid of it, cross country skiing can be a great choice – giving yourself the opportunity to release endorphins and be merry!

Social Engagement skiing

Exercise is proven to help with lowering depression by releasing stress and improving your physical and general well-being. You attain a sense of accomplishment, and instantly feel good about yourself.

A good support structure can keep you involved with friends and family, and this can be promoted and strengthened by engaging in cross country skiing, as a perfect winter activity. Everyone can combat the ‘cold weather blues’ collectively, and work on the bond between friends and family.

Cross country skiing can be a great and healthy alternative to meet friend and family outdoors, rather than at a bar or for brunch. Besides that, there are some great spots in cottages and resorts that you can book as a family or group of friends, where you can enjoy the indoors as well as outdoor skiing. It is certainly more fun and adventurous when you cross country ski with like minded people or your loved ones.

Nature

Ski touring is the easiest and simplest way to get a skiing workout. Just put your skis on, grab your poles and you are all set to explore nature.  There can be range of options depending on your activity level – from a 20 minute quick session to a whole action packed day of skiing, a 2 km loop or stretch to endless routes of tracks through the woods, mountains and lakes or even cities. You can keep it casual and recreational or endeavor to attain exhausting training speeds, pushing your limits. It all depends what you are up for and then decide accordingly.  

nature cross country skiing

Winter season is quiet and calming and for a lot of us, a time to reflect. This can be a great time to unwind and be thoughtful. You can do all that whilst on a ski trip outside, either on your own or with people you want to be. This shouldn’t be an excuse for you to be lazy and adopt unhealthy habits.

There is nothing better than getting up early on a winter weekend and hitting some trails with your skiing gear. This is the perfect way and time to enjoy the tranquility and quietness of a winter season. You may also get some much needed sunshine for a brief period or so. Try soaking it in and all the Vitamin–D goodness it has to offer.

Any Downside?

Cross-country skiing is seen as a low-risk sport, particularly when you draw comparisons with alpine skiing that is more prone to falls and severe injuries.

It is a versatile sport that can have many shades to it – from recreational and casual to competitive and high risk. This places cross-country skiing as an accessible aerobic outdoor sport with a low risk of traumatic injury.

The diverse and aerobic nature of this sport has its merits but also pose some risk for injury. It is, at the end of the day, a demanding full-body workout. It may be challenging for beginners or those who are aged, given the strength, stamina and technique required to practice it effectively.

Cross-country skiing is usually enjoyed in higher or cold mountain ranges that may or may not have appropriate medical support facilities. You are pretty much relying on your physical fitness as well as some external factors, such as good weather conditions and terrain – both of which may change pretty quickly and without any warning.

Drawback to Choosing Cross Country Skiing

Every sport has its merits and demerits. Cross country skiing is no different. Let us look at some of its ‘not so good’ aspects:

  • The inclement weather can be merciless and expose you to danger and cold.
  • The aerobic effect reduces when you start skiing uphill.
  • When you are skiing at higher altitudes, the intensity level gets relatively low.
  • The gear (for skate skiing in particular) can be expensive.
  • You need to be in optimum or near optimum physical condition to do skiing, and in certain cases, requires you to do training to build up your upper arms and legs – this may not be possible for everyone.

Conclusion

No matter what age or level you are at, cross country skiing has long-lasting health and non-health related benefits. If your goal is to stay fit and happy this winter, then do not hold back – timing has never been better. Get your skiing shoes on and get a move on!