The short answer to whether rollerskating is good exercise, is “Hell yes! What are you waiting for?”
Also known as quad skating, this is a great low impact way to exercise and a full-body workout. Even just standing and balancing on wheels requires you to engage your core muscles continuously!
Rollerskating’s popularity as a fitness activity comes from its strengthening of the legs and glutes as well, and it also offers a good cardio and aerobic workout. As certified personal trainer Amy Fanella says, “skating can make you stronger and help improve your heart health”.
According to the Roller Skating Association, skating can burn between 350 and 600 calories an hour depending on how you skate, so it’s up there with jogging in terms of health benefits, body fat reduction and leg strength development.
The low impact of skating is also attractive: it gives all the aerobic advantages of running without the knees and other joints taking the strain. Amateur inline speed skating is a very popular choice for ex-marathon runners with damaged knees who want to continue to get a good workout outdoors.
But it’s not a given that rolling around on your quad skates will bring immediate fitness results. This will depend on how you skate, for how long you keep skating, and how regularly.
Let’s consider the exercise potential of various kinds of quad / rollerskating:
Learning to Skate on Quads
At the beginning it might feel strenuous just to be on skates for 30 minutes. You’ll be using different muscles than you usually do, and these will tire quickly, so shorter but more regular skate sessions are recommended when you begin to skate. As you get stronger you’ll be able to increase the duration of your skating, which will in turn improve your stamina and muscle strength.
If you are a beginner quad skater, get started safely with the two beginner video lessons from Skatefresh, free of charge.
Skate Dance on Quads
Skate dance has captured the collective imagination in the era of lockdown, when skating in small quarantine spaces became the norm. Dancing on wheels boomed, and hopefully these skaters will not just be ‘lockdown wonders’ but will continue to enjoy the benefits. Some ‘quaddies’ may even go on to rival social media skate stars @oumi_janta and @anaocto.
Dancing on quads will get your heart rate pumping along with your music, and some good tunes can ensure you keep rolling for longer periods. Dance moves are not easy; they involve the whole body and constant movement, especially legs, glutes, and core, but also back muscles and abs.
An added bonus of learning to skate dance is that the weaker side of your body will get equally trained, as most dance steps are symmetrical left and right. This is especially useful for getting your backwards skating more fluent, and dance steps often have a lot of backwards steps.
Grab your free Box Step dance video lesson here.
Skate Park / Aggressive Quad Skating
Learning to skate in skate parks, on ramps and bowls, is another new trend for quad skaters — usually the ones who aren’t interested in dancing.
Again, this brings lots of aerobic heart exercise, with muscles working hard to control the very challenging environments.
Just pumping (rolling forwards and backwards) in a half pipe for a few minutes will leave most skaters with aching legs and a feeling of exhilaration.
Do make sure that your basic skating skills — stopping, transitions and backwards — are nailed before you set foot in a skate park. Otherwise you will learn the painful way that it’s not a great beginner space; skate-park spills are usually more serious.
Street Skating in Quads
Street skating on quads may be one of the most challenging things to do on skates, depending on the smoothness of the asphalt in your area. In the UK this is pretty rough, which makes for demanding physical exercises.
Higher speeds make it possible to roll over rough surfaces, so street skating involves repeated acceleration to tackle the next rough patch. This is where quads are more challenging than inlines, which gain and maintain speed more easily.
If surfaces are smooth, you can get into your groove and go for distance.
If you think you might need some better stopping skills before you hit the streets, grab your free T-Stop tutorial here.
Skating for Fitness
Like most forms of exercise, the way that you skate will determine the benefits you receive. Many people are disappointed that they don’t lose weight or trim up as fast as they had hoped, despite skating regularly.
I believe this is because many skaters do not skate correctly, in a way which would give them the benefits. For example, the correct skating knee bend is a very subtle squat with the body upright but the knees bending forwards over the toes.
Maintaining this position the entire time you are rolling will engage all the muscles of your legs and glutes continuously.
The main reason most skaters skate incorrectly is because these lower-body muscles are not strong enough to maintain this knee bend all the time. So the body relaxes, the knees come up, and immediately the skater will receive less than half the physical-exercise benefits (and struggle with manoeuvres because without the right knee bend things don’t flow).
This is why it’s important to find a professional skate instructor when you begin to quad skate, so that you learn correctly, fall less, gain confidence and increase the physical benefits you’ll receive. Search your local area for certified instructors; unfortunately in many places these cannot be found, which explains the growth of skating on social media and people looking for professional instruction online.
Skating is not intuitive or obvious. Almost no new quad skaters are doing the basics needed to get a good workout, and they are instead putting tension into their bodies and risking regular falls.
Skating has a clear advantage over other aerobic sports. The fun available helps mask the amount of exercise actually being done. Feelings of “freedom” and “flying”, and other mental health benefits, are regularly cited by skaters.
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If you haven’t started yet, now is your time. Let me help you get more from your skating, whatever your current level.