Members of the Classic City Roller Girls hold a practice session last month in Athens, Georgia.
Kayla Renie/USA TODAY NETWORK/Imagn
Many of us have walked to take breaks from work, burn calories and be more active outside during the pandemic. As we gear up for warmer weather, perhaps you’re looking for a fun way to take your walk up a notch. As a cardio and strength-training full-body workout, roller-skating is a heart-healthy way to get outside and get moving. It may be just the type of workout you need to kick your outdoor time into high gear.
Like many recreational sports, once you get the hang of skating you may start doing it on a daily basis. Whether you skate for fun or skate to a destination, skate assured that the American Heart Association recommends roller-skating as a way to stay active and heart-healthy. Plus, because skating is a whole-body aerobic resistance training exercise, you’ll improve muscle strength and aerobic fitness, according to research.
People are also reading…
Finally, you don’t need to commit to 30 or 60 minutes of skating to get positive effects on your mood. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only about five minutes of aerobic exercise is needed to begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Pushing off one foot and then the other while skating requires that you use your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves each time you pick a foot up to move. Alternatively, when you glide with both feet on the ground, your lower body still works, but it stabilizes you rather than pushes you forward. This type of movement is like using an elliptical or other cardio machine at the gym but even better because your body is working with both feet stationary as well as both feet in motion. Plus, the stability required in the ankle, calf and foot to balance on one elevated skate each time you take a stride is more intense compared with having your foot flat on the ground while running or on a cardio machine.
Before hitting the outdoors with your skates, there are a few things to consider in addition to the benefits of skating. Read on for tips to get started safely.
Besides being fun, roller-skating can build core strength and improve stability in the lower body.
Kayla Renie/USA TODAY NETWORK/Imagn
Roller-skating and rollerblading build core strength and improve stability in the lower body. Skating also improves upper body strength and mobility due to the pumping and swinging motion of the arms. As you’re rotating your torso by using your core muscles, you’re using your shoulders and arms to help propel you forward. The legs and glutes push you forward, too. Not only are you moving forward, but also you’re moving side to side, which improves hip mobility and strength. Your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes and hips work in unison to start skating, stop skating, speed up and slow down.
As a fitness coach, I always recommend having the right gear before you start a new workout activity. Whether you rent skates or buy them, test out roller skates and in-line skates to see which you feel more comfortable with.
Roller skates have four wheels that are lined up like car wheels: two in the front and two in the back. The wider base makes these skates a little bit easier for beginners. When standing still, you’ll feel more stable because of the base of the skate. However, it’s more challenging to speed up with roller skates compared with in-line skates.
The wheels on in-line skates allow you to have a smoother ride and skate faster.
Duyang/China News Service/Getty Images
Most in-line skates typically feature four wheels lined up front to back and a break behind the back wheel, and the upper boot of the skate fits snugly. The wheels allow you to have a smoother ride and skate faster.
As a kid, I learned how to skate with roller skates. I twisted and turned around the indoor rink and practiced skating up and down my driveway. As I became an adult, I opted for in-line skates because I could skate over to my friend’s house a mile away and show off my speed in the indoor rink.
I recommend these steps for adults, too — a testament to the design, structure and stability of the different types of skates. Start off on roller skates for fun and then move on to in-line skates once you feel comfortable on wheels.
Make sure you have the right gear such as helmets, kneepads, elbow pads and wrist guards for safety.
Hector Vivas/Getty Images
Helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads — they are all necessary for skating. Falling down and scraping your knee is one thing, but falling sideways onto your wrist or landing on your head could be a traumatic injury. The most common reasons for falling are a loss of balance or trying to swerve to avoid a collision or an object in your way.
As a kid, I was always embarrassed to wear so much gear. But as I got older, I realized that I looked more serious with my gear. Plus, I felt more confident to go fast, knowing that I had taken protective measures to keep safe.
For beginners, find a safe place to skate. Start off on a smooth, level surface, like an empty parking lot or even a tennis court. Make sure you pick a place that is well lit, with no traffic or obstacles in your way. Avoid skating in the rain because the slippery surface can cause you to fall more easily.
Skate forward and aim for stability, not speed. Get used to starting and stopping. Then start to skate to the right for a few feet and then change directions to the left. Continue this slewing pattern as training.
Ultimately, listen to your body and do what feels best for your current fitness level.
8 strategies to help maintain strength as you age
Invest in a trainer
A licensed and credentialed trainer can design a personalized program and teach you proper form and technique. Get referrals from local gyms, and many trainers now offer virtual workouts. After you learn the basics, you can work out on your own.
Image by Erak007 from Pixabay
Training with free weights, like dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells, is often better for muscle building than machines, Shawn Pedicini, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, says. “However, machines are ideal if you have balancing issues or other limitations that make it safer to sit during weight training,” he says. You can also go back and forth between free weights and machines depending on the type of exercise and which muscles you are working on.
Image by Jill Rose from Pixabay
While you need full-body workouts that address all your major muscles, older adults should pay special attention to their leg muscles: quadriceps and hamstrings (in the thighs), the gluteals (in the buttocks) and the calf muscles. “These are involved in many daily functional movements like squatting and climbing stairs,” Pedicini says. Compound exercises that work different muscles in one movement — like squats, deadlifts and lunges — are great for building leg muscles.
Image by happyveganfit from Pixabay
Weight, reps, sets
Pedicini says fewer reps with heavier weights helps you gain the most muscle. “An ideal routine would be eight repetitions for each exercise for three sets total.” But you can adjust this as needed. “People with movement issues might need to use lighter weights and do more repetitions.”
Photo by Delaney Van on Unsplash
Find your pace
Lifting should be done at a seven-second tempo. That means three seconds to lift the weight, a one-second pause and three seconds to lower it. If you can’t lift the weight at least eight times, use a lighter weight. When you can comfortably perform eight reps without completely tiring the muscle, increase the weight. “Muscles grow stronger only if you keep adding resistance,” Pedicini says.
Image by vicki4net from Pixabay
Two days is plenty
Ideally, you should do weight training at least twice a week. “Two days of full-body training can produce measurable changes in muscle strength,” Pedicini says. You often can feel results after four to six weeks of consistent training.
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Give it a rest
Always allow at least 48 hours between sessions for muscle recovery. Some people prefer to break their workouts into two parts: upper body and lower body. In that case, you can perform upper-body exercises one day and lower-body the next.
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash
Always raise the bar
Use enough weight so that the last few reps of a lifting routine are challenging.
“Don’t forget to consistently challenge yourself as you progress,” Pedicini says. “It’s necessary to gain the muscle and strength changes you want and need.”
Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.
Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!