It can be hard to pinpoint exactly why mountain life offers such a superb setting for building a healthy mind and body, which is why this podcast from Andrew Huberman caught our attention. Dr. Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab) is a Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford Medicine and host of the Huberman Lab Podcast.
He is focused on science and health research, in addition to public education. Dr. Huberman recently launched the Neural Network Newsletter, a free monthly newsletter on the latest in neuroscience, health, and science-related tools that is read by +100,000 subscribers. The podcast details Huberman’s well-respected theories about how to maximise our physical and mental health.
The key tenet of Huberman’s theory is based around five foundational pillars of health – sleep, nutrition, exercise, light and relationships. Each one of these contributes to our overall physical and mental health, and Huberman takes care to reinvigorate each one every 24 hours. Closer listening reveals that snow sports and the mountain environment itself offer the perfect place to perfect our fitness.
This article looks at the key points of Dr Huberman’s theory, and how skiing and simply living in the mountains can offer what could be the ultimate way to live a healthy life.
Health benefits of skiing and mountain life
Skiing is great exercise
Skiing is a great way to exercise. It offers top level cardio, as well as working numerous muscles. Obviously you’ll get a higher-level workout from carving through deep powder rather than a gentle run down a well-groomed slope, but even lower impact skiing works an incredible range of muscles throughout the body, including the all-important core.
Skiing also offers a natural form of interval training, noted by Huberman as being an important factor in sleep improvement. The simple fact that skiing involves a period of intense activity, followed by a gentle ride back to the peak means your body reaps the benefits of interval training, plus you get the added bonus of enjoying spectacular views.
Mountain light has unrivalled clarity – less dust particles and higher altitude means that light is less filtered and appears brighter. Light is crucial in supporting a healthy Circadian rhythm, which in turn supports healthy and restorative sleep. Healthy sleep relies on managing cortisol, so we can avoid a cortisol spike in the early hours, and so avoid the all too familiar wakeful small hours that have a negative impact on our day.
Simply absorbing bright light within the first hour of waking will increase cortisol levels and minimise late shifted cortisol. If we build a morning routine that includes hydration, sunlight (or even bright artificial light), movement, and caffeine intake we increase the possibility of catecholamine elevation. This increases the release of cortisol early in the day, which can have a positive impact on levels of energy and focus.
By choosing to spend time in the mountains, you increase your exposure to this precious early morning bright light. For those who have made the shift to living and working in the mountains and have their mountain home as a co-primary residence, the opportunity to maximise intake of morning mountain light is easy. If you’ve not yet made the shift from city to slope, then experiencing and understanding the benefits as part of your next trip is likely to provide enough evidence to create your own routine back home.
Natural cold exposure
Cold exposure has numerous benefits including increase in metabolism, increased release of dopamine and increased release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, both of which increase energy and focus. There are numerous safe ways to increase cold tolerance, and therefore cold exposure, many of which are discussed by Huberman.
Being in the mountains, especially in winter, means cold tolerance is naturally tested and improved, offering a way in to exploring this interesting theory and building the foundation for more intense cold therapy. If your ski property has a sauna, you may also like to explore the practice of heat and cold exposure, designed to amplify growth hormones and mood improvement hormones with lasting effect.
Skiing can improve endurance, strength and hypertrophy
Skiing works a range of muscle groups throughout the body. Writing inTime magazine, associate professor of sports science and kinesiology at the University of Salzburg, Thomas Stoggl, describes why skiing is such a good workout
“The mix of highly coordinated movements with different types of exercise modes”—carving, skidding, quick turns, jumping—”and the mix of eccentric, isometric and concentric muscle work might be seen as quite unique when compared with other types of physical activity”
Skiing is regarded as offering a complete lower body workout, as well as working muscles throughout the core and upper body. The intensive nature of skiing improves endurance, strength and may even contribute to increased hypertrophy.
Skiing can reduce sugar cravings
Engaging in physical activity such as skiing can help reduce cravings for sweets in several ways. Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being. These endorphins can act as natural mood boosters and help regulate emotions, reducing the urge to seek comfort or pleasure from sugary foods.
Regular physical activity promotes a greater awareness of the body's signals, including hunger and satiety cues. By becoming more attuned to the body's needs, we are better able to distinguish between true hunger and cravings triggered by external factors.
Finally, engaging in regular physical activity can promote the development of healthy habits and routines. When we establish a consistent exercise routine, we may naturally adopt healthier eating habits as well. This can lead to a shift in preference for nutritious foods over sweets.
Skiing helps to build relationships
Strong social connection is another foundational pillar of health, and the simple activity of exercising with others can play a huge role in forging strong connections. Skiing with others offers the opportunity for shared experience, which in turn creates a sense of camaraderie ,conversation starters and topics of discussion, fostering a deeper connection.
The encouragement, accountability, and friendly competition that come with exercising together can strengthen relationships as you work towards a common objective.
Skiing together works on a deeper level too, building trust and creating opportunity to vulnerability: Engaging in physical activity often involves pushing one's limits, Trusting others with your physical well-being and being vulnerable in your efforts to improve can help build deeper connections and enhance the level of trust within the group.
As our skills and experiences grow, so do our relationships and connections with each other..
Skiing helps improve and manage mental health
Being outdoors has numerous benefits for mental health. Spending time in natural environments, such as parks, forests, or the countryside, has been shown to reduce stress levels. Nature provides a peaceful and tranquil setting, allowing individuals to escape from the pressures of daily life and relax. The sounds, smells, and sights of nature can have a calming effect, promoting a sense of serenity and reducing stress hormone levels.
The simple act of being outdoors encourages physical activity, and regular exercise has well-established mental health benefits, including the release of endorphins, the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms, and the improvement of overall cognitive function.
Spending time in the mountains offers the opportunity to reflect and regain a sense of perspective. Even a brief time amongst such spectacular landscapes offers the opportunity to step back from a busy life and absorb the majesty of the natural world.
Find your perfect mountain home
Whether you’re looking for a permanent new home, a versatile co-primary residence or a classic ski apartment that offers income opportunity as well as the chance to indulge in the benefits of a mountain lifestyle, SnowOnly can help.
We are specialists in ski property with access to thousands of homes from agencies and individual sellers. Our dedicated ski property portal offers the chance to tailor your property search and makes it easy to find the perfect place to enjoy the incredible benefits that come from living in the mountains. You can join our property alert service, to be sure you’re always in the loop about what’s available, and our useful articles and buyers guides make it easy to understand the market.
Take the next steps towards improved physical and mental health and embrace the magic of mountain living.