The Debate: Is Ice Skating Good Exercise?

Wellbeing Tips
January 23, 2019

Ice skating: serious workout or just a fun way to spend a couple of hours? Read on to learn more about the health benefits of ice skating workouts.

It’s been around for about 3000 years, it’s fun, and we’ve even recommended it as a healthy Valentine’s Day hack, but is ice skating good exercise? Most people think of ice skating as a kind of leisure activity, rather than a serious fitness endeavor, and whenever physical trainers and doctors recommend fitness activities, ice skating is rarely top of the list. What’s really going on? Is ice skating a good way to maintain your physical fitness? Explore some of the reasons why ice skating might be the winter workout you’ve been looking for.

Put excess calories on ice

Ice skating workouts may be awesome for your cardiovascular health. Your legs are in continuous motion and your core is constantly engaged, helping to get your heart rate up and boost your blood circulation. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person can burn between 210 and 311 calories in just 30 minutes of ice skating, depending on their weight. Plus, the harder you skate, the more you may be able to burn.

Invigorate your major muscle groups

With its focus on lower-body movement, ice skating workouts could be a great way to boost your leg muscles, helping to strengthen your calves, quads, and hamstrings. It’s also fantastic for your abdominal muscles, so if you get good enough, a six-pack might be in your future?

Boost your joint stability

Ice skating workouts are low-impact, making them a viable option for people with a history of joint pain. Just remember that once you introduce spinning or jumping into the equation, ice skating suddenly becomes much less low-impact! It’s also great for coordination and balance, strengthening muscles in your core, knees, and hips.

Uplift your mental fitness

Next up: mental health! Ice skating may be a great way to improve your mental fitness and boost your self-confidence, while this sociable sport is a wonderful excuse to spend some quality time with friends and family out in the fresh air. Studies have shown that it can have a positive effect on the psychological well-being of children with hearing impairments, but anyone may be able to benefit from the stress-busting benefits of a couple of hours out on the ice.

Bump up bone density

Interestingly, ice skating may also be an effective way of increasing your bone density. That’s good news, as strong bones are associated with a wide range of health benefits, including a reduced risk of osteoporosis, improved athletic performance, and better posture. According to a 2003 study, the bone density of young ice hockey players increased across the entire body after just 30 months, with even more gains after 70 months. However, it’s important to note that after some of the participants stopped playing regularly, their bone density decreased, so you may have to keep up your skating if you want to see continued results.

What are the downsides of ice skating?

We don’t want to book you a seat on the bummer train, but yes, the risk of injury is one of the key drawbacks of ice skating workouts. Ankle sprains and fractures, ACL tears, head injuries, lacerations, hand injuries, and wrist injuries are all potential issues. If this is something you’re worried about, remember to warm up properly and wear the proper safety equipment.

There’s also the question of whether you’d be better served by focusing on other sports. According to Harvard Medical School, running at a speed of 10mph can burn over 600 calories in 30 minutes, while rock climbing can burn over 400 calories in the same time frame. In fact, over 50 sport and gym activities are reported to burn more calories in 30 minutes than ice skating, so if weight loss is your goal, there are probably better options. But come on! Skating is unique, and there’s no doubt you do see people smiling a lot more when they skate compared to running or rock climbing. Bonus: holding hands with mittens rarely happens in any other fitness pursuit.

The verdict’s in!

So, what’s the verdict? Is ice skating good exercise? While there’s a slight risk of injury—as you’d expect from any sport—ice skating may provide a host of health benefits that make it a great way to spend a couple of hours in the winter and show off the jackets and sweaters you’ll need to shelve in spring. Even if you’re not a committed skater, there’s plenty of reasons to give ice skating workouts a go.

Combined with a nutritious diet and an active lifestyle that includes a couple of other forms of exercise, ice skating could be a great way to maintain your physical fitness. But before you start lacing up your skates—yes, we need to say this—remember to check with a doctor, especially if you’ve never gone ice skating before.