Think skiing is just for young thrill-seekers? Not quite, says Kenneth Forsythe, M.D., a sports medicine specialist and creator of the Green Light Wellness program.
This former Olympian says it’s a great sport to take up, no matter your age, because of all the healthy benefits it provides. “Skiing is a wonderful, total-body, fun-for-life, great-for-families activity. Because of dramatic improvements in ski boots, skis and bindings, it is easier to do than ever before and it’s much safer, especially now that the hills are groomed so well.”
Dr. Forsythe started skiing at age 4 and competed until well into his 20s. He was invited to join the 1964 Canadian Olympic ski team at Innsbruck, competing in slalom and giant slalom. Now he skis for fun—and health. “People often tell me they’re too old to ski,” says Dr. Forsythe,”but I keep track of a gentleman at Mont Tremblant in Canada who still skis every year—at age 104. He says the sport keeps him young!”
Lots of people have been put off by the idea of skiing because of all the stories about how difficult it is and by worries about injuries, says Dr. Forsythe. But, thanks to the snowboard industry, skis and skiing changed dramatically during the past 10 years. “The ski industry woke up and made skis short, shaped, easy to turn, and a lot more fun.” Coupled with lighter, comfortable boots and much improved bindings, the sport can be safe for all ages, he believes.
“People may have been intimidated into not trying the sport because they heard it was dangerous, but it’s such a wonderful aerobic activity. It puts your cardiopulmonary abilities up there with tennis and hockey players.”
Before hitting the slopes, however, Dr. Forsythe encourages people to spend some time on conditioning. “Start a walking or jogging program, either at home or in the gym. For the gym, do resistance exercises, which provide strength and conditioning for every muscle group in your body.”
But you don’t need a gym to improve your conditioning. “When I was training for skiing, I could easily spend four or more hours a day working out,” recalls Dr. Forsythe,”but what I learned over 25 years of helping people to be healthier is that it’s the little bit you do all the time that really counts. It’s not at all about intensity—it’s about frequency.”
For those who are busy with work and family, Dr. Forsythe offers this advice: “One of the easiest conditioning tips for anyone is to think of all the hours you have available every day. For every hour you’re up and awake, try to walk for at least five minutes; you could do this answering phone calls, looking at the morning TV news, walking during coffee breaks, and so on. It’s the accumulation of activity that really makes the difference.’
Dr. Forsythe’s Tip for Anytime and Anyone
Every time you go to sit down in a chair, bend only part way and hold that ‘half-seated’ position for 10 seconds. It’s good for backs, hips… and skiers!