Dr. Wade Johnson, a New York internist whose patients are primarily seniors, says there’s only one compelling factor for the 50-and-older man or woman to consider when taking up any physical sports, including skiing, for the first time: good health! A thorough physical examination is imperative for first-timers of advancing years before they put on skis - “just as it is for seniors who want to start exercising or take up any active sport.”

Dr. Johnson has this word of caution, though, for the over-50 who hasn’t been especially physically active: “Begin working out gradually to improve the cardiovascular system, along with the muscles. Regular warm-up exercises that involve bending and twisting are a real asset.”

He says that since cross-country skiing is more demanding on the body than downhill, “the cross-country addict has got to be in better physical condition, especially where the cardiovascular system is concerned, than the easygoing downhiller.

“When you’re skiing at a resort you ride uphill and ski down. There certainly are no lifts when you’re pushing yourself along a cross-country trail through the woods.”

Dr. Johnson sounds one very practical note of warning for senior skiers. “It doesn’t make any difference if you’re skiing a big resort, or a backcountry trail - always ski with a companion. If something goes wrong, your chances of avoiding a rough problem are a lot better if you have a buddy alongside to help out.”

He agrees with a point often made - with considerable enthusiasm - by senior skiers: Skiers can enjoy relaxed alpine skiing on easy runs or push themselves as far as they want to. The choice is totally theirs.

The good doctor has several last words for seniors: “Skiing? It does wonders for you. Go. Go.”

Researchers have long documented improvements in the health and well-being of seniors who are physically active. They’ve found that, to enjoy the benefits, it’s never too late to start.

Here are some of the benefits energetic seniors enjoy, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness:

Heart disease and stroke: Exercise helps reduce the risk of these by lowering blood pressure, raising the level of beneficial cholesterol, and reducing the risk of blood clots.

Cancer: Exercise lowers the risk of colon cancer.

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