The slopes are calling.
Skiing is a great way for seniors to stay active, and it’s a lot of fun, too. To get you up to speed before you’re speeding along in the snow, we’ve compiled this guide to skiing for older adults, including its benefits, exercises to help you prepare, and where to find discounted passes.
Benefits of Skiing for Older Adults
If you needed another reason to hit the slopes, the many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits of skiing are great incentives!
Strengthens Lower Body Muscles, Joints, and Bones
The nature of skiing requires your body to constantly work to stay balanced, engaging your core at all times and working your leg muscles. As you use your knees to control your direction and speed downhill, the tension caused by the movement and support of your bodyweight helps to strengthen the muscles, joints, and bones of your lower body.
The weight-bearing impact of the act of skiing results in stronger knees and legs that are less prone to damage or injury. Your whole body gets a good workout when you ski, and rumor has it that skiers have the best butts — so you can look forward to that unforeseen benefit as well!
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Improves Balance and Coordination
Balance tends to deteriorate as we age, leading to more slips and falls. For this reason, maintaining your balance becomes more and more important over the years.
Skiing requires a constant state of equilibrium, strengthening your core and improving your overall balance. Skiing also helps improve your coordination and what’s known as proprioception, which is your ability to feel the positioning of your body parts. This naturally weakens with age, so skiing can prevent or postpone your proprioception from diminishing.
Increases Cardiovascular Endurance
Skiing is an aerobic activity that requires endurance. As you ski, your heart rate will likely increase; and the longer and more frequently you’re exerting yourself, the more you will increase your cardiovascular endurance. Studies show that your heart rate will even stay in the healthy zone while on the lift, helping to prevent or combat high blood pressure and improve heart health.
Helps You Lose Weight
Because skiing gets your heart rate up for extended periods of time and exercises your entire body, you can burn approximately 3,000 calories with a full day of skiing! This is a lot more fun way to lose weight than jogging on the treadmill.
[Related: How to Lose Weight in the Winter]
Boosts Your Mood
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Skiing is fun! Maybe the best benefit you can get out of skiing is the enjoyment of the activity. Gliding down the mountainside at exhilarating speeds, feeling the blood pump through your muscles, enjoying the beauty of the winter wonderland setting… it’s all part of the experience.
Studies show that skiing can boost your happiness and well-being, leading to better mental health as well as physical health. You can also increase your happiness quotient by skiing with your grandkids. Additionally, spending a day on the reflective white slopes will give you some beneficial exposure to vitamin D, boosting your mood even more!
Skiing is a highly vigorous physical activity in most cases, and at least a moderately vigorous exercise in others. Since regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity has been linked to better memory and reduced cognitive decline in adults, you can enjoy both physical and mental benefits from engaging in this fun activity this winter.
Preparing for the Slopes
Make sure you return from your ski trip whole and injury-free by changing up some of your workout ahead of time. Perform the following exercises three times a week for at least three weeks prior to your trip, and you will be amazed at the difference!
Knees: Single-Leg Squats
This great exercise not only helps build your knee strength, but also targets each knee individually, preparing them for the specific demands you can expect on the slopes.
As you squat on one leg, extend the other straight out in front of you, until the weight-bearing thigh is parallel to the floor. Take care that you are squatting back so that your knee doesn’t push forward over your toe. Repeat 15 to 20 times and then alternate legs.
Back: Back Extensions
Back extensions target your lower back and are really critical to prevent back strain after a day on the snow.
Lying face-down on a mat, place your hands one on top of the other under your chin. Start with your abs contracted and squeeze your back so that you lift your chest off the floor. Focus on lengthening your torso as you lift for good form. This exercise is done slowly, holding at the top and then lowering for one repetition. Repeat 15 times. For a greater challenge, lift your feet off the floor at the same time.
Hamstrings: Hamstring Curls
Using resistance bands, lie face-down on a mat with your legs extended straight behind you, bands attached to your ankle. Curl your legs, drawing your heel toward your butt and taking care not to arch your back. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each set, with a total of three sets.
Using either dumbbells or a barbell, start with the weights in your hands, your arms extended straight down in front of your thighs, and your knees slightly bent. Keep the weights close to the front of your legs as you lean forward from your hips, push your chest out, and stand up. Lean and lower the weights to the floor, returning to your starting position. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions each.
Quads: Wall Sits
This challenges your quads and knees with your own bodyweight and conditions them to handle the turns on the slopes.
Stand next to a wall with your back, placing your feet about a foot out. Slide down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this with your knees directly over (not in front of) your ankles. Try to hold each time for 30 seconds, repeating three times or more.
Discounted Passes for Ski-Loving Seniors
You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a lift pass. And for seniors, passes are often heavily discounted.
Where to Find Discounted Passes
Over 130 ski resorts across the United States and Canada offer free or deeply discounted lift passes for seniors, in most cases ages 70 and over. SeniorSkiing.com compiles a yearly list of all U.S. and Canadian resorts offering specials to senior skiers, complete with a minimum age requirement and a link to that resort’s website for more information.
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State With the Most Senior-Loving Resorts
New Hampshire takes the lead with the most senior-loving ski resorts in the United States. Eleven resorts offer deeply discounted season passes, including the popular Cranmore Mountain Resort and Bretton Woods, which offer skiers aged 80 and older season passes for a mere $30 and $25, respectively.
Michigan, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania follow close behind, with no less than six resorts each that offer senior slope discounts. (Something to keep in mind when considering your winter travel destinations!)
With most adult season passes for ski resorts climbing toward the $1,000 range, these types of discounts are an astounding deal. So whether the snowy hills and chairlifts are old friends, or you’re strapping on skis for the very first time, you might want to take advantage of your senior status and hit the slopes on the cheap. Just make sure you dress for the cold, wear a helmet, and don’t ignore any health issues that may prevent you from having a fun and safe time in the snow.
How has skiing helped you stay fit? Share your story with us!
Featured image via Pixabay