If you need an excuse to hit the slopes this holiday season, look no further than your health. Strapping on the snow skis, even once a year, may enhance overall happiness, health, and well-being, according to a recent study.

The mere engagement of sports or any form of physical activity is known to boost mood and well-being. When people are using their body in activities, such as exercise, they typically feel happy and calm. The Mayo Clinic says moderate to vigorous physical activity generates the brain to release endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine, which are chemicals that make you feel good. Moreover, the completion of the physical activity will allow the body’s muscles to feel more relaxed — reducing tension and strain. Participation in outdoor winter sports such as skiing may provide a fun, priceless way to feel happier and healthier this holiday season or year-round.

Published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, a team of Korean researchers, conducted a cross-sectional survey of 279 visitors in three major ski resorts in South Korea to measure their levels of happiness and satisfaction. The survey respondents either participated in skiing, snowboarding, or in both. On average, the skiers and snowboarders spent four and a half days at a resort, while more than 90 percent visited ski resorts fewer than five times a year.

In the study, happiness and satisfaction levels were determined by assessing the participants’ sense of pleasure, their level of flow or engagement in the activity, and the sense of involvement and satisfaction they subjectively reported after hitting the slopes. Out of the sample size, 126 (45.2 percent) participants skied, 112 (40.1 percent) were snowboarders and 41 (14.7 percent) participated in both activities. All of the respondents were experienced skiers or snowboarders prior to the study.

Findings revealed the manner in which the participants engaged in activity, also known as "flow," had the greatest direct impact on satisfaction, followed by involvement. The researchers identified involvement as being deeply involved in an enjoyable physical activity that can enhance a person’s positive outlook on life.

Skiers who became the most involved in the skiing and who forgot everything else in their lives while they were on the slope were found to reap the most benefits from the activity. The researchers were surprised to find skiers reported greater levels of pleasure and involvement than snowboarders. However, a reassuring finding revealed skiers who do even one-off or fewer skiing outings can still experience the positive effects of the sport.

"Adult playfulness can influence people’s happiness, while activities and socially convening around a sporting activity, such as skiing, have positive psychological outcomes and contribute to overall well-being,” said Hyun-Woo Lee, lead researcher of the study from Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea in the news release. “This is also true for people who only casually participate in sports.”

Skiing not only boosts overall happiness and well-being, but it is beneficial to an individual’s physical and mental health, despite the frequency or duration of the activity. Bethony Garner of the Ski Club of Great Britain, told the Daily Mail, skiing can help an individual shed up to 5 lbs. in a span of seven if they spend six hours every day going up and down the slope burning 3,000 calories. If the slope is steeper, the skier is more likely to burn a greater number of calories. “Experienced skiers are also more likely to negotiate moguls, which use up even more muscle power and so burn even more calories,” Garner told the Daily Mail. Beginners also can get a good cardiovascular exercise by working the heart and lungs from walking up the slope rather than using the ski lift.

Spending the holidays at a ski resort can also help individuals avoid the holiday gut formed by the consumption of high-calorie foods and alcohol drinking. Sipping on some hot chocolate and the occasional pastry while enjoying a breathtaking view of the slopes will leave you feeling happier and healthier not just this holiday season but year-round.

To learn more about the health benefits of skiing, click here.

Source:

Bunds KS, Cho KM, Lee HW et al. Rediscovering the Positive Psychology of Sport Participation: Happiness in a Ski Resort Context. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 2013.