Cross country skiing has long traditions in Norway, and Norwegians are known to perform cross-country skiing at the highest international level. There is no doubt that Norway is one of the best cross country skiing nations in the world. And the best skiers today are treated as “pop star icons” by the Norwegian population and the media.
But why is it like this in Norway? First of all, we are located far north on the planet and thereby have the right climate for skiing, even though the last few winters were warmer than usual (but this is a discussion for some other time). In addition, we have many well-groomed slopes. This, together with Norwegian traditions for outdoors recreational activity, gives us an unprecedented number of youth who start enjoying skiing at a very young age. Many of them continue skiing into teenage hood. So much so that there are almost 1000 participants in the national championship in cross country skiing for 15-16 years olds. Recruitment is good.
But these are only the competitive athletes, and there are even more recreational cross country skiing in Norway. From a public health perspective, we know that over-enthusiastic vigorous physical activity can cause an immediate rise of cardiovascular events, this disadvantage is substantially outweighed by long term gains from regular physical activity. So to summarize, this enormous interest and activity in cross country skiing in Norway, does not only give us the world champions, it would also gives us a better health.
Arnt Erik Tjønna, researcher at CERG