Cross-country skiing is a popular alternative to walking or jogging in the winter months. It is a healthy social activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

This form of skiing is a demanding sport that combines cardiovascular fitness and endurance, without the pounding forces to the extremities.

Cross-country skiers have the highest maximum oxygen uptake level recorded in competitive athletes. The body can burn up to 10 calories per minute when cross-country skiing, putting it in the category of fast running. The calories burned depend on the terrain and speed.

The most common injuries with cross-country skiing are ankle and forefoot complaints, which include bunion pain neuromas (pinched nerve in the toe-metatarsal area), metatarsalgia, tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

The cardiovascular benefits, however, outweigh possible injury. Cross-country skiing not only exercises the heart and legs, but also the upper body and arms.

It is advisable to wear several layers of clothing that will allow both heat retention and ventilation when skiing.

Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.