At last, solid proof for what we’ve long suspected: skiing and snowboarding are good for you. And that’s not just because they’re both great fun and put a smile on your face but because this also improves our health, happiness, red blood cell count and makes us live longer. The evidence has always been there for us to see: the bearded septuagenarian bounding past you for the fifteenth time as you struggle down your first run of the day. Here’s his secret...
Are you SAD? 1 in 50 people in the UK suffer from seasonal affective disorder which is a type of depression which commonly occurs during the winter months when the days are shorter. You travel to and from work in the dark, are cooped up in the office all day, and levels of serotonin, the brain’s natural mood lifter, drop. SADs can vary from mild winter blues to a more severe form where people can’t function in the winter without treatment. So get treatment and get up on the mountain. You may get depressed about the cost of a beer on the slopes, but that’s not quite the same thing.
We’re all just animals, obviously some creationists may disagree, but we need to exercise our fight or flight responses. What safer, or better, way of doing this than searching out the steepest black run you can find, or something just a little bit beyond your normal comfort zone. The adrenalin surge will activate the beta receptors in your nervous system causing your heart to beat faster and increasing air to the lungs. This stimulates the brain, and the endorphin rush of relief when it’s over, will make you feel like a super human after every run. You can then undo the good work done by celebrating with some après ski in the bar afterwards.
Can the news get any better? Just being at altitude can make you thin, fit and desirable - at least the first two are true. A couple of years ago the Austrian Moderate Altitude Study was carried out. Men who were overweight and suffered from high blood pressure and high cholesterol were prescribed walks at an altitude of between 1400m and 2000M. The result? Exercise at altitude improves heart function and circulation, lowers blood pressure and burns calories. There was also an increased number of young red blood cells. So, as far as the theory goes, skiing rocks and just getting off at the top of the Aiguille du Midi (3842m) could add years to your life.
Spending time in the great outdoors helps to prevent disease and boost recovery. You can avoid the pretty nasty particles which float around in the urban air. According to some Harvard boffins in their Six Cities 1993 study those people living in the most polluted cities have a 26% greater risk of dying young than those in the cleanest. So give yourself a break from the congested traffic and polluted air and breath in that fresh, crisp, revitalising mountain air.
Learning is good for us. Your parents told you so and they were right, but they and you need to heed that advice. Learning new skills later in life can slow down the onset of dementia. Attempting challenges such as learning a foreign language - which you can practice at the bar - or new skills, such as skiing, will reduce the risk of getting age related symptoms and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
So what are you waiting for? Skiing is not only great fun but also scientifically proven to be good for you. Now that surely is an unbeatable combination.