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5 Best Winter Sports to Try

Downhill Skiing continued...

Downhill skiing is a power sport that improves balance, flexibility, agility, and leg and core strength, Olvey says. Snow skiing also doesn’t stress the back muscles like water skiing does.

Someone weighing 150 pounds burns about 360 to 570 calories per hour while downhill skiing.

Olvey advises beginners to avoid altitudes that are too high because of the possibility of altitude sickness. Most resorts don’t allow people above about 11,000 feet. It's best to go up gradually and get acclimated. Signs of altitude sickness include a headache, muscle aches, inappropriate shortness of breath, and inability to reason normally.

Olvey also urges people to watch out for fatigue. A large percentage of injuries happen later in the day when someone goes for that "one last run" and ends up breaking an ankle. And make sure you drink enough fluids even though it is cold and you may not feel thirsty.


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.

Jonathan Chang, MD, of Pacific Orthopaedic Associates in Alhambra, CA, says another key perk of snowboarding, and many other sports, is that "the thrill of shredding the powder is good for your mental health."

Recent studies, Chang says, indicate people's mood and anxiety level improve when they exercise outdoors.

Chang says many snowboarders get good cardiovascular benefits and calorie burning from the extended exercise that comes from getting their money's worth from the lift ticket. But for safety's sake, be sure you don't push past the limits of your energy and ability.

Here are Chang's tips for recreational snowboarding:

  • Pick terrain that's appropriate for your skill level.
  • To burn more calories and get a better workout, seek out a more challenging or steeper route -- but only if you have the skills to handle it.
  • Be sure to gear up properly: Wear a helmet and wrist and elbow guards.
  • Don’t get in over your head. If you're a beginner, Chang recommends taking lessons instead of "pointing downhill and figuring it out."

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