December 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm EST | by Bucky Mitchell
Health benefits of winter sports
winter sports, figure skating, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian figure skating champion Ilia Kulik, who won the gold medal at the Nagano, Japan Olympics in 1998, executing a triple lutz jump at an exhibition performance at Pennsylvania State University in October. Of course, it takes a world-class athlete to land big jumps such as this, but figure skating has many health benefits for even novice skaters. (Washington Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

As the snow begins to fly and the cold weathers sets in, we tend to hunker down and hibernate during the winter months.

But this year, think about changing up the pattern and start exploring the benefits of winter sports. Here are a few of my favorite winters sports, why they are good for you and where you can do them around the D.C. Metro area.

Snowboarding tops my list as one of the best winter sports you can do to keep active and in shape. First and foremost, snowboarding is fun. Racing through the snow, picking up speed, thinking that you are conquering this great big mountain when you only just conquered the beginners’ hill. Believe it or not, that fun feeling in your body has everything to do with your fitness and well-being. Snowboarding releases endorphins that are responsible for making you feel happy and less anxious. The more you snowboard, the better you will feel.

Snowboarding is also a great overall workout. Not only does it activate your quads, hamstring and calves muscles, it also does a phenomenal job at strengthening the muscles in your feet and ankles. Moreover, your core and abs get a great workout because they constantly have to do the work of keeping you balanced or changing direction while on the board.

So where can you practice your snowboarding tricks? One of my favorite places, which is only about a 90-minute drive outside of D.C., is Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg, Pa. Check out the website at

While I’m not the biggest fan of ice hockey, I did give it a try last winter and was surprised how much I liked it. One of the things I liked most was the camaraderie and team spirit. There’s something about having a common goal and trying to get the puck into the net that gets your heart pumping and the calories burning. Even the novice ice hockey player burns 400-600 calories per hour.

More then just burning calories, ice hockey like snowboarding is great for working your legs and activating your core because you have to stay balanced while changing direction at a moment’s notice. Additionally, ice hockey mimics HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) in which the activity is done in short amounts of time. The average play in hockey lasts 30-60 seconds. In turn, this type of exercise has a myriad of health benefits from reducing risk of heart disease to cholesterol and insulin sensitivity.

So where can you practice scoring goals? One of my favorite places is Kettler’s Capital Iceplex in Arlington, Va. From beginning classes to private instructors and adult ice hockey leagues, Kettler’s is the place to go. Check out its website at

While you may be thinking that figure skating is not that different from ice hockey in terms of exercise, there are just enough differences to make it a worthwhile endeavor of its own. One of the major differences between ice skating and most other winter sports is that it’s a low impact sport and is easy on your joints and bones. It’s one of the easier winter sports to get into because it isn’t as demanding on your body initially.

Unlike ice hockey, ice skating requires you to exert energy for a longer period of time and therefore builds your endurance and cardiovascular system while also building your legs and abs simultaneously.

So where can you practice your figure eights? During this time of year there are some really great inexpensive outdoor rinks to try your hand at ice skating. I prefer the rink at the National Gallery of Art or at Fort Dupont. Check out the websites at or Of course, you can also practice axels and lutzes or, let’s be real, skate around in circles, at Kettler’s too.

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