Cross-Country Skiing Doubles Muscular and Cardio Fitness

How good is cross country skiing for you? What will it do to your overall health? Well according to research it is an amazing workout for your body.

Cross Country Skiing

If you're looking for a full-body workout that provides both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, cross-country skiing may be your best bet, according to new research out of Ball State University and Sweden. In fact, it may help you to live longer.

What Does the Study Say?

Volunteers for the study included two groups of men in their eighties. The men in both groups were able to live on their own without assistance. One group was made up of men who performed no formal exercising other than daily tasks. The other group was comprised of men who engaged in cross-country skiing on a regular basis – four to six sessions per week – throughout their lives.

Both groups of volunteers were healthy and able to take part in a series of exhaustive exercises.

As expected, the cross-country skiers fared better, but the real story is how much better. The men who weren't regular exercisers were in very good health for their age, but the exercises showed they were on the edge of being unable to live on their own.

The regular cross-country skiers had about double the muscular and cardiovascular fitness of the group of non-exercisers. The regular cross-country ski group found itself in the lowest mortality risk category for men of all ages, according to the research team.

When the cross-country skiers are compared to the octogenarian endurance athletes used in earlier studies, they still come out approximately 40 percent more fit than their counterparts. The researchers suggest that cross-country skiing provides an efficient full body workout that tops many other workouts. Previous studies involving cross-country skiers also showed they had a much lower mortality rate than non-skiers.

The explanation likely lies in the way cross-country skiing involves the whole body, working the muscles of the arms as well as the legs, in addition to providing a cardiovascular workout. Long distance, steep hills, side-stepping, and varied terrain all contribute to a total body workout that's hard to beat.

The downside lies in the fact that cross-country skiing is a seasonal sport and, depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find. If you have the opportunity, it's definitely worth the adventure. For true lovers of the sport, part of the fun is finding the good trails.

Details of the research are published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.


  1. Scott Trappe, Erik Hayes, Andrew Galpin, Leonard Kaminsky, Bozena Jemiolo, William Fink, Todd Trappe, Anna Jansson, Thomas Gustafsson, and Per Tesch. New records in aerobic power among octogenarian lifelong endurance athletes. J Appl Physiol January 1, 2013 114:3-10; published ahead of print October 11, 2012, 10.1152/japplphysiol.01107.2012:do:10.1152/japplphysiol.01107.2012

By Will Smith



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