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It's Snow Fun: Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are exhilarating activities and great workouts. Both sports are excellent cardiovascular exercises that strengthen the heart. Because they are also weight-bearing exercises, they strengthen your bones as they tone your muscles.

Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercises also work to reduce your risk for chronic diseases, lower blood pressure, and help you maintain a healthy body weight. Through regular aerobic exercise, such as skiing and snowboarding, you lower your risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, having a stroke, and perhaps even getting cancer.

Keep in mind that skiing and snowboarding are more challenging than many other types of exercise, such as walking and swimming. It's important to prepare your body for the rigors of these strenuous winter sports with some pre-skiing and pre-snowboarding exercises to strengthen you and get you fit enough to handle the slopes. You also need the proper equipment and lessons to teach you needed skills.

Get ready

Start by training your body for these sports a few months in advance of your first lesson. Consider working out with a personal trainer and cross-training at a gym by lifting weights, running, biking, and swimming -- all types of exercise that tone, strengthen, and challenge your body.

Next, sign up for private or group lessons from a qualified skiing or snowboarding instructor. You'll learn proper techniques and safety guidelines, such as how to protect yourself and even how to fall to keep from getting hurt.

Ski and snowboard tips

Once you're fit and know the basics -- and even after you're an expert -- you still need to take certain precautions to stay safe on your skis or snowboard. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your winter workout and have more fun on the slopes:

  • Use the right equipment. Whether buying or renting, choose skiing or snowboarding equipment that's in good shape, of good quality, and fits you properly. Protect yourself with a helmet; goggles; shin, wrist, and arm guards, as needed, and gloves that fit properly. Ski boots and bindings should be checked and adjusted by a ski professional, but you should always double check your bindings before you head down the slope.

  • Pay attention. Keep a close eye on the trail, stay on course -- and on courses designed for your skill level. Be on the lookout for dangerous ice.

  • Pace yourself. Start out the day with a few slow, easy runs to warm up. Remember not to push yourself too hard or try a course that's beyond your skill level—and always snowboard or ski with a buddy. When you feel tired or if your muscles feel weak, take a break.

  • Stay hydrated. Skiing can burn 600 calories an hour, and you may lose body fluids through perspiration without realizing it. Drink plenty of fluids when you're on the slopes all day, but avoid alcohol. In addition to eating a nourishing breakfast and lunch, you might want to pack healthy snack bars in a parka pocket.

Skiing and snowboarding are exercises that make winter truly fun. Just remember that both are serious sports that require preparation, safety measures, and skills. So as soon as the air turns crisp, make sure to start working on winter fitness -- and you'll be prepared when the first snowflakes fall.