The benefits of the mountains during the winter months

Not just downhill, but also cross-country skiing, walking tours and snow-shoe walking. The mountains during winter represent an ideal break for you to re-connect with yourself and with nature. What do you need to prepare yourself fully and what are the benefits of these sports?

Home Life Lifestyle travel The benefits of the mountains during the winter months

Mountain air does you good. That might seem like a cliché, but it is true. There are actually many pieces of research which demonstrate the benefits of spending some time in the mountains relating to your physical well-being, your mental health, your mood and the reasons for that are many and extremely varied: from the air that you breathe to the exercise you get and also the contact with nature. If disconnecting from the frenetic life of the city during winter is beneficial, the mountains are probably the ideal destination. In addition, as the FAO has also stated, sustainable high-altitude tourism can be an important driver for socio-economic improvement.

An analysis by the Sport Science department of Innsbruck University revealed the positive effects of downhill skiing and noted, particularly in the case of regular practitioners, an improvement in their general state of health and in their ageing process. Skiing (carefully) reinforces the muscular-skeletal system and reduces the risk factors for cardiovascular illnesses, because, as the WHO recommends, it is an activity which works the heart at between 60 and 80 per cent of its maximum capacity. Furthermore, downhill skiing allows people to deal with their fears, such as heights or high speeds, and at the same time provides them with an adrenalin boost and a sense of inner peace.

The benefits of the mountains during the winter months
The benefits of the mountains during the winter months

The mountains, though, are not simply somewhere to go downhill on skis. In winter you can go cross-country skiing, snow-shoe walking or pedalling on a mountain bike, or quite simply go for a walk, taking in the benefits of cleaner air than in cities, which improves the oxygenation of the blood. Walking with snow-shoes is an aerobic activity which allows you to burn off between 400 and 600 calories an hour, at the same time toning your legs and strengthening your heart. The evocative panoramas of snow-shoe walking circuits and the ability to enjoy them alongside other people are further plus points which explain the recent success of this pastime.

On a par with snow-shoe walking, cross-country skiing is also a low-intensity and low-speed sport, where the risk of severe trauma and falls is infinitely lower compared with downhill skiing. That is not to say that the sport requires less effort, however; on the contrary. As wrote Humanitas medical care in an article, “Cross-country skiing brings benefits both at the mental level (freeing you from stress) and at the level of the cardio-vascular, respiratory and muscular-skeletal apparatus”. Skiing cross-country improves not only your coordination but also your cardiac efficiency and your respiratory capability. In order to enjoy this exercise, however, it is important to be already prepared for a sport which entails a significant aerobic element; therefore it is advisable to train during the warm seasons by swimming, running or cycling, in order to be ready to cope with a prolonged effort for your breathing and your muscles.

As well as winter sports, furthermore, the mountains are useful for recharging your batteries in a serene environment, where life cycles are more relaxed and suited to our biological clocks, because generally speaking in the mountains you tend increasingly to settle into the rhythm of the light and darkness of the surrounding nature. The excellent wine-tasting and gastronomical opportunities, the sunshine and the night-time silence, with clear and starry skies, are additional factors which help to make your week in the snow the ideal type of break during the winter.