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Snowboarding: 'Tis the season for winter fitness

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Get yourself a snow-bunny bod

Hitting the slopes with a snowboard is de rigueur among the celeb set. Everyone’s doing it, from the Jolie-Pitt crew to Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake. And while snowboarding is trendy, it can also do your body a world of good, tightening and toning every muscle group (even ones you didn’t know you had!). Here are a few good reasons to conjure your inner snow-bunny and get fit with snowboarding this season.

Woman snowboarder

History of snowboarding

First developed in the US in the 1960s, snowboarding is a full-body workout that involves winding your way down snowy ski slopes with your feet securely fastened with special bindings to a board. It was created by Sherman Poppen, an engineer, who developed a board for his daughter by fastening two skis together. Originally dubbed the "snurfer" (a surfboard for the snow), modern-day snowboarding began to take shape in the 1970s and 1980s – particularly after the first national snowboard race was held in Woodstock, Vermont. It became an Olympic sport in 1998.

Types of snowboarding

There are three prominent forms of the sport you can take up: free-riding, freestyle and free-carve/race.

Free-riding is the most basic form of the sport and is very similar to skiing: you hop on a board and wind your way through groomed trails. You might perform small "tricks" when you go over small jumps.

Freestyling is a more aggressive form of the sport: You use man-made terrain and features (think rails, half-pipes or steps) to perform tricks.

Free-carve/race is very much like slalom skiing and involves an incredible amount of focus: You weave your way through flags along groomed trails.

Snowboarding fitness

The body-sculpting benefits from snowboarding are very similar to skateboarding, surfing, wakeboarding and skiing.

No muscle is left untouched, from the abs and back, which are used to keep you stable and balanced on your board, to the calves, thighs and glutes (which you use to control, stop and direct the board). Even arms and shoulders are used, helping a boarder direct her weight and steer, a.k.a. "carve," the board.

Even moderate snowboarding will torch 400 calories in 60 minutes for a 135-pound woman.

Snowboarding conditioning tips

To keep your body in tip-top shape before and after boarding, it's important to do some weightlifting (even light leg lifts or bicep curls will help) as well as some core-strengthening moves (Pilates is a good place to start). Working your cardiovascular system will give your the lungs the boost they need to stay on the hill for more than an hour. Stretching to prevent muscle tears and tightness is also recommended.

Snowboarding safety

Like many winter sports, snowboarding can be risky if you don't take the proper precautions. Head injuries are quite common (it's much harder to control the board than it is to control skis), so wearing a helmet is an absolute must. And because slipping or falling is common, it's a good idea to invest in wrist guards or knee pads -- this helps prevent small fractures in your hands or legs. Another good product to look into is a "butt pad." This padded device can be worn like a diaper and prevents butt bruises that may result from falling backward while you learn to use the board.

To learn more about snowboarding, visit www.burton.com or ussa.org.

Snowboard fitness tips

Snowboarding winter workout

Get in shape to prevent injury and day-after sore muscles with this ski and snowboard winter workout series.

More ways to stay fit this winter

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