People who ski are less likely to have anxiety, says study

From gorgeous scenery to adrenaline-fuelled runs, there are plenty of reasons people choose to go skiing. 

But it seems the sport has another unexpected advantage.

New research has found that taking to the slopes can benefit our mental health – as skiers have been found to be less anxious.

The recent study, published in the Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that skiers had a nearly 60% lower risk of getting diagnosed with anxiety disorders – compared to non-skiers.

For years experts have thought that physical activity can help prevent anxiety or reduce its symptoms – and this new study shines a light on this in a little more detail.

The authors looked at 197,685 Swedish people who participated in Vasaloppet – the world’s largest long-distance ski race (56 miles) – between 1989 and 2010, and compared them to non-skiers. Then continued to monitor them over a 10-year follow-up period. 

Overall, skiers had a 60% lower risk of getting diagnosed with anxiety disorders – regardless of education level, age and sex.

Researchers also found that intensity of exercise plays a role, too. What’s more, there are some differences among men and women.

The time it took skiers to finish the race didn’t impact men’s risk of anxiety disorders, but physically high-performing female skiers had almost a doubled risk of developing anxiety – compared to lower-performing women.

However, the study’s author Martina Svensson points out: ‘The total risk of getting anxiety among these high-performing women was still lower compared to the more physically inactive women in the general population.’

These differences could come down to different physiological responses to exercise – or other factors such as worries about one’s appearance (which has been more commonly found among female exercisers) and self-perception of physical fitness level, which can increase anxiety.

The findings of the study do make a lot of sense considering we already know that exercise can be a mental distraction from worrisome thoughts and gets those all-important endorphins flowing.

Likewise, nature enhances our sense of wellbeing. So exercise that takes place outdoors, such as skiing, can be incredibly beneficial to mental health.

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