What to Know About Roller Skating

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 25, 2022

Roller skating and rollerblading are fantastic, family-friendly activities that can provide both indoor and outdoor fun

It’s never too late to try a new activity — especially one as heart-healthy as being a roller skater. Plus, learning skills like biking and skating can increase your self-esteem

If you’re looking for a new summer activity or a way to mix up your exercise routine, you should give roller skating a try.

What Is Roller Skating? 

Roller skating and rollerblading — also called inline skating — are essentially the same activity. The main difference is that roller skates have four wheels that are in side-by-side sets of two and roller blades have four wheels in a straight line. Skates are more frequently used in indoor rinks, and blades are more common in outdoor settings. 

If you’re not sure which type you prefer, give them both a try. Roller blades tend to be faster but provide less stability. 

These activities are great for both recreation and exercise. Skating is a fun way to mix up your exercise routine and get out in nature. It’s also useful as off-season practice for sports with overlapping skill sets — like hockey and skiing.

Who Can Roller Skate? 

The majority of mobile people can learn to roller skate or blade — skates are even available for preschool-aged children. But this activity should only be attempted by those who enjoy it. Rollerblading can be a painful hobby. Beginners — and even experienced skaters — should be prepared to handle bruising, scrapes, and even broken bones. 

Once your child is around preschool age, they can begin learning to skate as soon as they’re interested and able. This skill requires both balance and coordination, and everyone develops at a different pace.

Is Roller Skating Healthy? 

When done correctly, roller skating is a great physical activity that works out most of your body. Ways that roller skating can benefit your body include: 

  • Improving your heart health — aerobic exercises are the best type for your heart
  • Strengthening your leg muscles
  • Strengthening your core muscles — which supports spinal stability
  • Improving muscle tone throughout your legs
  • Strengthening your balance skills
  • Making you more flexible
  • Increasing your agility

What Roller Skating Equipment Do You Need?  

Before you start to skate, you need to make sure that you or your child has all of the necessary safety equipment. This includes: 

  • A helmet. Always wear a helmet when roller skating or blading. If you’re only going skating once or twice, a well-fitted bike helmet can provide adequate protection. If you plan on doing lots of skating, you should get a helmet that’s specially designed for roller skating or skateboarding. They have extra protection for the back and front of your head.   
  • Knee and elbow pads. These will protect your sensitive joints from the worst scrapes when you fall. Make sure that they’re the right size and that you put them on correctly. 
  • Gloves. Most people instinctively try to catch themselves with their hands when they fall. Gloves will provide a layer of protection. 
  • Wrist guards. These provide added support to your wrists and can help you when you’re catching yourself from a fall. 
  • A mouthguard. This will keep your teeth safe in case of a bad accident.  
  • Long pants and long sleeves. These can provide extra protection in between your padded areas, especially when you’re just starting out.

Also make sure that you have the right size skates. Poorly fitting skates increase your risk of injury. The material that they're made of also matters. The plastic should be hard enough that it doesn't easily compress under your fingers. Make sure that your brakes and wheels aren’t worn out if it’s been a while since you’ve used them.

How to Roller Skate

When it comes to roller skating, it’s best to start with the basics. Find a wide-open smooth area to start. Empty parking lots are a great example of the kind of surface you want to start out on. Avoid all areas with moving cars until you’re a capable, confident skater.  

Put on all of the necessary safety equipment and make sure that your skates are securely laced all the way up your ankle. Not lacing your skates the right way increases your risk of injury. 

Start by working on moving forward and braking. You need to master these two basic steps before moving on to anything more complicated. When you’re just starting out, you need to stick to a slow and steady pace. 

When you feel more confident, you can start moving faster and skating in more complex environments. There are plenty of fancy moves that you can learn later, like weaving around in patterns and skating backward. 

Learning to skate can be a nerve-racking experience for young children, so make sure that you let them go at their own pace.

Roller Skating for Exercise

As far as a workout goes, roller skating is comparable to jogging. But it has the added advantage of being a low-impact aerobic exercise — which is better for your joints than high-impact ones, like jogging. 

Depending on your speed, rollerblading is considered a moderate to vigorous form of exercise. You can make the workout more intense by crouching down while you skate. Bend your knees and lower your upper body to accomplish the correct posture

You can also try a rollerblading method that’s considered a form of high-intensity interval training. Skate as fast as you can for a set amount of time or distance, then skate at a normal pace. Continue to alternate back and forth to pack a large amount of exercise into a short amount of time.

Tips for Roller Skating Safety

Roller skating and rollerblading can be dangerous activities if you’re not properly equipped and prepared.  

General roller skating safety advice includes: 

  • Never roller skate alone as a beginner — young beginners should always have a parent or guardian present and even experienced children should skate with a friend.
  • Never use headphones when skating — they make it harder for you to hear cars and other hazards.
  • In case of injury, always carry a cell phone and identification.
  • Stay to the right side of bike paths, sidewalks, and trails, and pass pedestrians on the left.
  • Call out to pedestrians and cyclists when you’re about to pass them.
  • Never skate in the rain and snow — it makes surfaces dangerously slippery.
  • Never let yourself be towed behind a vehicle — this could lead to serious injuries.
  • Try to bring water and wear sunscreen on hot days.   

Talk to your doctor before you start skating if you have any concerns about this activity and your health. Ultimately, you know what activities are best for your body.

Show Sources

American Cancer Society: “Skate Your Way to Family Fun.” 
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program: “Roller Skating.” 
A Healthier Michigan: “Rollerblading: Your Underrated Summer Cardio.” 
Nemours Teens Health: “Safety Tips: Inline Skating.”

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