Exposure to natural light, increase of red blood cells, higher energy expenditure, improvement to your cardio-respiratory system, release of endorphins… To end winter on a high note and experience the very best of the mountains, there’s only one thing for it: follow the advice of our health expert!
The benefits of altitude
Spending a few days in the mountains is beneficial for the body in several ways. That will come as no surprise to sportsmen and women, who are well aware that high altitudes help to improve performance. There’s a simple explanation for this: at altitudes of 1,300 metres and above, there’s less oxygen in the air, which causes the body to suffer from hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency. To compensate for this loss, pulmonary ventilation accelerates and your haematocrit rate, or the number of red blood cells, increases in the days that follow. The job of red blood cells is to transport oxygen to the muscles, thereby providing better oxygenation.
Additionally, as the air is drier in the mountains, you’ll also need to stay more hydrated. And as cold temperatures make you burn more energy, complex carbohydrates are more beneficial.
The benefits of training
Every sports session requires a minimum amount of warm-up and training. Why? Rupturing your cruciate ligament, straining, tendonitis… It’s simply a matter of avoiding injuries. Whether you spend two days or ten days skiing, it is crucial not to skip this stage. That’s why Doctor Michael Prüfer recommends that two months beforehand, you carry out “an active one-hour walk, ideally three times a week, and in the month beforehand, add running once a week and stretching, no matter what your age.” If you already practice a sports activity on a regular basis, you’ll have less risk of injuring yourself. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about training.
Mental health benefits
It’s a question of light therapy and height. In the mountains, natural light is more intense which has several benefits. In the winter, a number of people suffer from seasonally affected disorder, in large part due to the lack of natural light. In 1984, Norman Rosenthal, an American psychiatrist, proved that there was a link between light and depression, which resulted, among other things, in a drop in the brain’s level of serotonin. This drop in light could also “explain a third of cases of attention deficit disorder (ADHD) in children and up to 57% in adults”, according to researchers at the Brainclinics Research Institute (Netherlands). UV rays (although you should still protect yourself from them in the mountains by wearing sunglasses and applying sunscreen), therefore act as a natural anti-stressing agent, as well as strengthening the bones by promoting the synthesis of vitamin D, which regulates the body’s internal clock and therefore aids sleep.
In addition to this, it’s already well known that sports activity which requires endurance can become almost addictive. Why is that the case? When the body exerts itself, the brain and more specifically the hypothalamus, releases endorphins. Usually produced after a short period of intense stress, they are also detectable after prolonged exertion. The effect is a gentle sensation of euphoria. Some even call it natural anti-stress medicine. There’s no reason not to give it a try…