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Article: Nordic Skiing ... It’s Fit to Be Tried
By Sharon Cutler / Photo by Carter Photographics
cross country skiing into fitness

You’re flying across the snow. Your whole body is working in sync to propel you forward; your arms are pulling, your legs are kicking, your heart’s pounding, and your breath is deep and steady.

For a whole-body winter workout, nothing beats Nordic skiing. This low-impact exercise delivers amazing cardiovascular benefits, works all the major muscle groups, challenges your balance, keeps your joints healthy and is good for your mental health. “And it’s fun,” says Peter Marshall, the Nordic ski school supervisor at the Eldora Nordic Center.

Marshall, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, believes the biggest health benefit gained from Nordic skiing is the way it works your cardiovascular system. “It puts a lot of healthy stress on your heart and lungs,” he explains. “Because so many muscles are at work, the heart is forced to pump a whole lot of blood around the system. That’s really, really good.”

Calorie burn goes hand-in-hand with the sport’s cardiovascular benefits. Because so many muscles are working simultaneously, you naturally burn a lot of calories. Recreational skiers may burn as many as 600 per hour; racers can burn over 1,000. As your muscle mass increases, you’ll burn calories long after you take your skis off.

Nordic skiing works all the main muscle groups, but it’s especially good for the core area, which includes the abdominals, lower back and pelvis. This area is, “chronically underused,” says Marshall. “Most people tend to spend way too much time behind their computer or steering wheel, and the core muscles are either not used at all or stressed in a way that’s not good for them. Nordic skiing works the core area and erases some of the deleterious factors that are just part of our daily life.”

Marshall also notes that Nordic skiing promotes better balance. He explains that, “as we age, it’s critical we do things to practice balance. Balance is one of those use-it-or-lose-it skills, and it’s something we need to have.”

Nordic skiing promotes healthy joints, too. Because it’s low impact and requires only a small range of motion, you can ski for hours without stressing muscles, joints, or ligaments. This makes it a good option for those who can’t tolerate high impact activities.

And lastly, there is no denying the mental health benefits of Nordic skiing. “When people go out skiing, they can be a little grumpy or having a bad day, but I can almost guarantee that when they get back to the Nordic center, they’ll have a big smile on their face,” says Marshall. “Nordic skiing has this way of washing everything else away – you get out in the trees and on the trails and come back feeling refreshed – mentally as well as physically.”

We’re lucky to live in an area where we can mix up our exercise routines to accommodate the changing seasons. Keep your winter workouts interesting this year with Nordic skiing, and reap the sport’s many mind and body benefits!

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