Where I live in the Catskill Mountains bears go into hibernation during the winter. People shouldn’t. As the cold weather sets in each year there are great activities to make snow and ice an advantage for those of us that live in the Hudson Valley.
These five cold-weather sports provide great exercise. Along with getting you some much needed fresh air during the winter, they can help you build muscle mass, endurance, and balance.
Cross Country Skiing
For building endurance cross-country skiing is one of the best sports you can do. It also burns more calories than almost any other activity. Cross country skiing is an aerobic sport. That means you move nonstop for an extended period of time while your heart pumps oxygen to your muscles, providing them with energy. It is about grinding it out over the long haul with no help from gravity. The muscles strengthened while you cross-country ski vary with your skiing style. But they typically include the thigh muscles, gluteus maximus (bottom), gastrocnemius (calves), and biceps and triceps (front and back of the upper arm). And the best thing of all is that really anyone can do it without any major learning curve. Stick with easier trails, golf courses, and any flatter terrain and it’s almost as easy as walking.
In contrast to cross-country skiing, downhill skiing takes shorter bursts of energy. Most ski runs last about 2 to 3 minutes. The muscle groups used in downhill skiing are the “prime movers,” including the hamstrings, quadriceps (thigh), hip, and foot muscles. To a lesser degree, you’ll also use your abdominal muscles for control and strengthen your arms by using poles. Downhill skiing is a power sport and certainly has a learning curve involved. Some great skiing choices in the Catskills are Hunter Mountain, Bellayre, Windham, and Plattekill. All offer beginner ski instruction programs.
Snowboarding uses the calf muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps to guide the board; ankle and foot muscles for steering; and abdominal muscles for balance. It also burns about 480 calories per hour for someone weighing 150 pounds. Like skiing this sport requires a learning curve and is offered at the same choices listed for skiing.
Ice skating truly addresses all components of fitness at any level. It can be done across a lifetime and can be done individually or as a group sport. All those things make it a pretty unique sport in my mind. Ice skating is a low-impact exercise, unless you’re doing a lot of jumps, that’s good for building lower-body muscles including the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Performing jumps can build bone mass. Skating also boosts balance, flexibility, quickness, and agility. Different kinds of skaters develop different muscles.
Vitamin D exposure
Unlike in summer, we tend to spend most of our time indoors during the winter season. This results in a decrease in vitamin D which is fundamental for our overall well-being. Just get outdoors, try any of the above activities or just catch some sun rays and breathe in the cold air. Your health depends on it.
By Michael Gross
Michael is a pioneer in the burgeoning indoor trampoline park industry. He is managing member of Bounce! Trampoline Sports, overseeing the development and operation of 8 locations currently for this franchised brand. His trampoline park located in Valley Cottage, NY was the first of its kind in the tri-state area when it opened in November of 2011. Michael is a founding member of the IATP (international assoc. of trampoline parks) and on the ASTM committee establishing standards for the indoor trampoline park industry. Michael has been involved with health oriented physical activities his whole life and continues a daily regimen of cross fit training at his home in the heart of the Catskill