The Winter Sport You Should Not Go Without

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If your exercise program stalls in the winter due to the weather, you may want to rethink your options. Winter sports are not just great exercise; they are also a lot of fun. Plus, a new study finds that a certain winter sport can enhance your overall happiness.

Dr. Hyun-Woo Lee and colleagues from Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea conducted a survey of 279 visitors to three major ski resorts in South Korea. The results found that those who participated in either skiing or snowboarding had rich experiences that enhanced happiness and, ultimately, health and well-being.

Interestingly, between the two sports, skiers showed a higher level of pleasure and involvement in their sport than snowboarders did.

The respondents of the survey visited ski resorts an average of four and a half days per year. But even those who visited less frequently achieved a sense of pleasure after getting out in the snow.
Flow or engagement in an activity has the greatest positive effect on satisfaction. This is described as being so involved in an activity that you are almost oblivious of all else around you. Involvement is also important in that the sport provides you with a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

How else may skiing be beneficial to your health? Obviously, skiing is a great physical activity, burning anywhere from 400 to 600 calories in an hour (for downhill skiing, depending upon intensity). Cross-country skiing will burn even more – 500 to 650 calories per hour.

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Any enjoyable physical activity will also activate chemicals in the brain that make you feel good (endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine). Moving those muscles in the wintertime can help reduce tension and make you feel more relaxed.

One may not realize that skiing also works the brain in other ways. Skiing is a proprioceptive activity, which is an aspect of fitness defined as one’s ability to feel the position of different body parts and the effort that goes into moving them. Skiing and snowboarding require a great deal of balance and coordination. Proprioception weakens with age so the more you are involved in these types of activities, the less it will diminish.

Skiing will also help strengthen joints and preventing injury and disability later.

"Adult playfulness can influence people's happiness, while activities and socially convening around a sporting activity such as skiing have positive psychological outcomes and contribute to overall well-being," Lee believes. "This is also true for people who only casually participate in sports."

Lee advised that people who organize sporting activities should attempt to build group solidarity and greater involvement so that people can grow emotionally, socially and creatively.

Journal Reference:
Bunds KS, Cho KM, Lee HW et al. Rediscovering the Positive Psychology of Sport Participation: Happiness in a Ski Resort Context. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 2013.

Additional Resource:
The University of New Hampshire: The Benefits of Skiing

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