Wintertime Fun: The Benefits of Winter Sports

Wintertime Fun: The benefits winter sportsEven if you prefer the warm, sunny seasons over the colder months of the year, there’s no denying that winter has a lot to offer. Aside from the holidays and cozy hibernation of winter break, there’s also lots of time to hit the powder to try out some winter activities and sports.

There are a lot of benefits to being active in any season, and taking part in sports, regardless of the level, can improve stress management, muscle and bone health, quality of sleep, weight, and more. While it’s always great to stick to a sport you know and love, the wintertime is also a great time to try something new! There are all kinds of activities you can partake in, including skiing, snowboarding, hockey, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating.

If you’re hesitant about getting out in the snow for some wintertime fun, the following are some of the benefits you can enjoy when partaking in particular winter sports.

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Ice Skating

Ice skating takes a certain level of finesse that can take many people a long time to perfect. Even the best performers in the sport can sometimes struggle to keep their balance when learning certain skills, so it’s no surprise that many of us are hesitant to try it.

Two kids racing on ice skating rinkHowever, ice skating is one of the best winter sports to partake in if you’re trying to improve your balance. The act of moving, changing direction, and spinning can be incredibly difficult on skates, and this sport requires a strong core and overall balance to remain upright.

Ice skating is also a sport that is very leg-heavy, meaning that skaters are required to use their lower body muscles much more than their upper body muscles, to perform properly. If you’re ice skating frequently, you can be sure that one of the largest advantages will be building leg muscle in order to push off, change direction, and glide across the ice.

Other benefits of ice skating include improved endurance and cardio strength. The longer you’re able to stay on the ice and exert energy, the more endurance you will reap for other activities off of the ice as well.

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Snowshoeing

When it comes to winter sports, snowshoeing really is the jack-of-all-trades. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck in terms of an overall workout, then this kind of sport is exactly what you’ll want to try.

Calories burned snowshoeing infographicWhile walking and running are great forms of exercise, snowshoeing can be a lot more difficult because of the terrain and equipment involved. The entire body works when you’re snowshoeing, specifically utilizing the legs, shoulders, arms, and core to keep you upright and pushing through the snowy landscape.

If you’re wondering how many calories are burned while snowshoeing, information suggests that speed and terrain have a lot to do with it. For example, traveling at 2.4 mph on a flat, packed terrain can burn 240 calories per hour. In comparison, snowshoeing at 2.9 mph on a snowy trail with hills will burn 744 calories for women and 1,046 calories for men.

Aside from the solid workout you’ll get every time you partake in snowshoeing, this sport also goes hand in hand with improving your cardio and endurance. This sport is a full body workout that will help you to use muscles that you may not be using on a daily basis, and snowshoeing will help you to strengthen those muscles as well as your overall physique.

While snowshoeing may initially seem less dangerous than some of the other sports mentioned, it’s important to remember that snowshoeing takes place in an often challenging environment. To keep you and your friends safe from injury or harm, you’ll want to be aware of the common safety tips for snowshoeing to ensure that you are prepared in case of emergency.

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Skiing

Skiing is different than many other winter sports, in that it requires shorter bursts of energy and much greater heights and speeds. Because of the speed and height required for most skiing activities, it’s a good idea to start with some professional lessons before you head out on your own. You might also want to consider some of the skiing braces available, which can help to prevent injury or soreness in your ankles, knees, wrists, etc.

Woman skiing down slopeOne of the largest benefits of skiing is the strengthening of the lower limbs. Skiing is a sport that focuses on the use of the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, calves, and feet, so skiing regularly can improve your strength and muscle tone in these areas. Another benefit of skiing is that you can continue to challenge yourself without having to switch leagues or invest in better gear. If you’re starting to feel more confident, you can easily increase your speed, height, and skill level by trying new hills and terrain to continue to challenge yourself.

Of course, like many other winter sports, cardio and endurance are also improved with this sport, as it can take a lot of energy to change direction, stay upright, and travel up and down the mountain multiple times. It has been suggested that individuals who are skiing make sure to stop, when they are tired, and only go on hills that they are comfortable with. This way, you remain safe, the skiers around you remain safe, and you can thoroughly enjoy the benefits of skiing all season.

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Snowboarding

Man riding snowboardConsidered one of the more difficult winter sports to master, snowboarding requires a whole lot of lower body strength, as well as a strong core for balance. Similar to skiing, those who are new to snowboarding should consider hiring a professional trainer for their first few days down the mountain. Because the hill will be full of other snowboarders with different skill levels, learning how to control your direction and speed is key to everyone’s safety.

If you’re tackling the sport of snowboarding, you’ll certainly find some advantages of the sport, including a strengthened lower body and a stronger core. Unlike skiing, snowboarding requires that you keep your balance without the support of poles, and you’ll also be facing sideways for a lot of the time. Because you’re oriented sideways without support, you’ll need to rely on your core and lower body strength to help you remain upright, change direction, slow down, and stop.

As a result, many find that their lower body strength and balance are generously improved with this sport, as well as their endurance. Not only will you need to stay upright while you snowboard, but you’ll also need the strength to pick yourself up and travel with your snowboard to the lifts. If you’re just starting out in this kind of sport, you’ll learn fairly quickly how many muscles this sport really utilizes and improves.

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Cross Country

Cross-country skiing is a great sport for all kinds of people, as it’s much easier to accommodate to your level of skill and physical fitness. Whether you’re young and athletic or older and more leisurely, cross country skiing can benefit anyone.

For those looking to improve their endurance, cross country skiing is said to be one of the best sports to try. It is an aerobic sport, which means that you’re constantly moving without taking short breaks. As a result, the heart continuously pumps oxygen to the body to give you the energy you need to keep going.

Cross country skiing couple on snow slope

Cross country skiing also helps to burn a lot of calories, and it also requires that you use various muscles in the body to propel yourself forward. Individuals who cross country ski will benefit from added strength and muscle tone in their thighs, gluteus maximus, triceps, and biceps.

As with all sports, you can reap the health benefits of cross-country skiing, so long as you don’t overexert yourself and take breaks when necessary. If you’re going to be traveling in a remote area, make sure ahead of time that the trails are safe and that you travel with a friend.

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Hockey

Man playing hockey outdoorsHockey is a great sport for all ages, and it has numerous benefits for us to enjoy. As one of the few multiple player winter sports, hockey helps to benefit our social skills as well as our fair play and communication with others. Fortunately, hockey is also available to play at all levels, so, whether you’re looking for something competitive, recreational, or otherwise, hockey is a perfect choice to burn some energy and play as a team.

In terms of the physical benefits, hockey is a full body sport that requires a lot of strength from the lower legs, ankles, arms, shoulders, and core. Players use their hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes to push off and change direction, while they will be using their shoulders and arms for passing, stick handling, and shooting. Similar to skating, hockey also requires a lot of balance and core strength in order to stay upright on the ice.

Because hockey sometimes requires multiple skills to be performed at once, this sport is also beneficial to those who are trying to improve their multitasking, versatility, and hand-eye coordination. Hockey is also a great sport for building up endurance, as it requires bursts of energy for short shifts and quick breaks that allow the body to burn calories.

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Curling

Curling is a great sport to try if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require a lot of endurance. Curling takes place in a controlled arena and, most of the time, it is played at a slow rate that gives you time to catch your breath and maintain a healthy heart rate.

Some of the benefits of curling include increased flexibility, strengthened muscles, and aerobic fitness. One of the best benefits of the winter sport of curling is that there are a variety of positions to play and different skills to learn from each. If you’re new to the sport, you might want to join a recreational league that allows you to try all of the different positions so as to enjoy each of their benefits.

USA men playing curling sportFor example, whoever is throwing the rock will notice increases in strength, flexibility, and precision from staying low to the ice, throwing the rock, and guiding its direction. Those who are sweeping will notice increased strength in their arms from vigorous sweeping, as well as an increase in core strength from keeping their balance down the ice.

Aside from the physical benefits of curling, this is also a great sport to increase your team play skills, competitiveness, and social interactions. This is a great sport for those who prefer to stay in a warmer, more controlled environment during the winter season, and it can be played by anyone at any level, whether able-bodied or not.

For those who are playing for their first time, you might want to consider investing in a back brace, as much of this sport is played semi-hunched position to sweep the rock down the ice. A back brace for curling is a great way to avoid injury and offer extra support to the lower back.

Trying out any type of new winter sport is sure to be beneficial to your body in different ways. While each sport utilizes and benefits different parts of the body, it’s important to remember that partaking in any kind of activity is a great idea.

Aside from all of the physical benefits of winter sports, all of these options will also help to get you outside, help to improve your mood, and, possibly, help you to build new relationships. While many of the sports are individual, you may find that others are new to the sport as well, and this commonality can be a great way to gain new friends and improve self-confidence.

If you’re unsure which winter sport is for you, consider getting some training ahead of time. This way, you can learn more about each sport in a controlled environment and learn how to apply yourself to it properly before going out on your own. While not every sport is for everyone, getting outdoors is a great way to shake those winter blues and get fresh air into your system. Consider playing some of the sports suggested above to receive the benefits of a fun winter sport.

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