Orthopedic surgeon Angela Smith, isn't just a fan of ice skating. She's also the former chairwoman of the U.S. Figure Skating Sports Medicine Committee and continues to win medals in the U.S. Figure Skating National Showcase.
"I think [ice skating] truly addresses all components of fitness at any level," she says. "It can be done across a lifetime and can be done individually or as a group sport. All those things [together] make it a pretty unique sport in my mind."
Ice skating is a low-impact exercise -- unless you're doing a lot of jumps -- that's good for building lower-body muscles including the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Performing jumps can build bone mass, Smith adds.
Skating also boosts balance, flexibility, quickness, and agility. Different kinds of skaters develop different muscles. Speed skaters get larger thighs; men who lift a partner have stronger upper bodies; and people who do lots of jumps are less muscular in the upper body, Smith says.
Another benefit, Smith says, is you can burn calories even as a beginner. If you're a new skater, you may use a lot of energy just getting around a rink a few times. As it becomes easier, you can skate longer and continue to build strength and endurance.
Smith’s tip for new skaters is to know that skates run about a size below street shoes. Many people don’t know this and never get past the pain. "There is no such thing as weak ankles," she says. "The shoes just don’t fit right."
If you like group activities, ice hockey may be the perfect winter sport.
Michael Bracko, director of the Institute for Hockey Research, says, "It’s fun in the dressing room before getting on the ice, and it’s usually an absolute riot after the game. Everyone is having fun and making jokes and making fun of each other."
Aside from the camaraderie, the sport exercises the same groups of muscles as other types of ice skating do. That includes the lower body and abdominals, which maintain balance, and the upper body, which is used to move the hockey stick.