Even if you’ve only been cross-country skiing a few times, you know how good you feel once you’re done. But a couple of recent studies show that cross-country skiing also provides a number of health benefits.
In a study published September 2019 in the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, researchers followed 2,483 middle-aged men for over 20 years. They found that cross-country skiing lowered men’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But men didn’t have to ski a lot to get a health boost. Even those who skied 60 minutes or less a week had a 27 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to non-skiers.
Those who skied more saw an even bigger benefit — they were 36 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than men who never hit the ski trails. Of course, exercise isn’t the only thing that lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes. Diet is important, too. Cross-country skiers may also eat healthier than non-skiers, although the researchers didn’t look at this.
In the other study, which was was published the same month in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers reviewed several previous studies. They found that cross-country skiers have a lower risk of dying from heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events, compared to runners.
The authors say this may be because cross-country skiing involves the use of both the upper and lower body, with a mix of “pulling” and “pushing” actions. As a result, skiing increases exercise intensity more than running, and puts more demand on the heart, lungs and blood vessels.
So the next time you’re hesitating about braving the cold and hitting the cross-country ski trails, remember all the health benefits you will gain. Not to mention how good you’ll feel once you make it back to the cabin.