Most of us know that the key to a consistent workout routine is finding a form of exercise that you truly enjoy. If running, weight lifting, or yoga ain’t it, maybe you need to find something that challenges you in a completely different way. Like, say… roller skating.
Roller skating isn’t just fun to watch on TikTok—it’s also an amazing way to exercise your body.
Here are some reasons why we think it’s worth getting your skate on. And for the beginners out there, we also have some tutorials and tips throughout.
What’s the Difference Between Roller Skates and Rollerblades?
First things first: What’s the difference between roller skates and in-line skates? (Other than that the latter is often referred to as just “Rollerblades,” the brand that’s the Kleenex of the product category?) Obviously, the wheels are different: Roller skates have quad wheels while the wheels on Rollerblades are in a roll (or “in line”).
But there are some other differences between the two roller shoes.
- Roller skates have four wide but small wheels in rows of two, also called a quad. They may look easier to stand on for beginners, but don’t be deceived—those wheels can roll with any sudden movement!
- Rollerblades have three to five tall but thin wheels in a row centered under the shoe.
- Roller skates have stoppers in the front of both shoes. They can be used to push off or to brake, although you’ll have to learn how to stand on one foot first before you can use them safely.
- Rollerblades usually have a brake at the back of one of the shoes. All you have to do is press down your heel and you’ll come to a stop.
- Roller skates typically have a lower rise that ends around your ankles and have to be tied with shoelaces. This gives you less support but also more freedom to do cool tricks.
- Rollerblades rise higher than your ankles and will strap them in tight with either laces, buckles, or Velcro (or a combination of these).
- Roller skates are fun for indoor and outdoor use. While you can pick up quite a bit of speed on them, they’re best for dancing or doing tricks.
- Rollerblades are made for speed and long-distance skating. While you can skate indoors, you’ll get the most out of these shoes on long, smooth surfaces like a boardwalk or a bike lane.
While some people say roller skating is easier for beginners, this comes down to your personal preference and fitness. Regardless of the skate you pick, benefits of skating remain the same. So let’s dive in!
1. Challenges Your Focus and Balance
This is kind of a given, isn’t it? After all, standing on wheels is anything but stable. While you may struggle with your balance on roller skates in the beginning, it’s something that you can improve with focus and practice.
Some roller skaters recommend doing yoga to practice your balance outside of the rink. This will especially come in handy once you start with small drills and tricks like one-foot skating or crossovers.
2. Improves Cardiovascular Fitness
Both running and in-line skating are an appropriate form of exercise for improving cardiorespiratory fitness Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise “Exercise responses to running and in-line skating at self-selected paces” View Source . (Whether you pick roller or in-line skates doesn’t matter to your heart, though!)
The American Heart Association considers in-line and roller skating excellent forms of exercise and suggests at least 150 minutes American Heart Association “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids” View Source of aerobic activity per week. That’s only 30 minutes five days a week—time well spent if you want to keep your heart healthy.
The Nessie Tip:
If the infrastructure in your city or town allows it, consider using your skates to commute to and from work, school, or social gatherings. That way you’re getting your workout in, all while saving the environment (and gas money).
3. Improves Lower Body Strength and Hip Mobility
Skating is a full-body sport. When you first get started, you’ll notice that everything from your upper body to your core to your calves will feel sore. The ideal body position while skating is slightly leaning forward and keeping your knees bent. Just holding this position and squeezing your legs together so you don’t roll away can be challenging for your leg muscles, lower back, and core.
To move on your roller skates, you’ll have to push off one foot and skate on the other. This motion trains your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves with every push you take. While you may not enjoy the initial soreness that you feel from your first few days of skating, keep in mind that strengthening these muscles—especially your glutes—may help combat lower back pain Journal of Physical Therapy Science “The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patients” View Source .
Besides building core and lower body strength, you’ll also notice that your hip mobility improves over time. Because you’re moving side to side with every step you take, your hips do a lot more (and very different) work than they do when you’re running, cycling, or doing other forms of cardio.
4. Strengthens Calves and Ankles
Whether you’re on roller or in-line skates, it’ll be a challenge for your calves and ankles. While the four quad wheels on your roller skates keep your ankles relatively straight and stable, the shoes are usually low-cut, so you’re at a higher risk of twisting your ankle when you fall. The longer you practice, the stronger your ankles will get, though—especially if you warm up properly!
On in-line skates, your ankles are tightly laced and buckled in. But because the wheels are in a row, it’s much harder to keep them aligned with the rest of your body. Always work on keeping your feet horizontal to the ground you’re skating on. If you still experience ankle issues, check out the video below for a few more tips that’ll keep your ankles strong and healthy.
5. Burns Calories
Who’s counting calories when you’re having fun? We’re surely not—but it’s still nice to know and important to mention that roller skating has a MET value NASM “METABOLIC EQUIVALENTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS: WHAT ARE THEY & HOW TO CALCULATE THEM” View Source (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) of 5.8 and in-line skating a MET value of 7.4. To put that number in perspective: Running at 10 mph has a MET value of 16, circuit training has a value of 8, and cleaning your home is rated at about 2.5.
Not just that, in-line skating can also help you improve aerobic capacity and maintain body weight Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise “Exercise responses to running and in-line skating at self-selected paces” View Source just as much as running on a treadmill.
6. Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Once you’re feeling comfortable enough on your wheels, you may find yourself getting tempted by the thrills of a roller derby league. Follow that urge! (Well, once you’ve got your helmet, knee pads, and roller derby name sorted.) A study found that roller derby, a full-contact roller skating racing sport, helped people enrich their lives Active: Journal of Physical Education, Sport, Health and Recreation “Benefits of Roller Derby: The Roller Girl Perspective” View Source by learning how to overcome obstacles as a team and get frequent social interactions. Having a strong social support system has been linked to stress resilience Psychiatry “Social Support and Resilience to Stress” View Source and psychological well-being.
Even if roller derby isn’t quite for you, you can find other forms of social skating support. Whether you join a local group for roller skating tours around town or meet up with your friends at the roller skating rink, this sport is the perfect opportunity to let loose, get out of your comfort zone, and have fun with others.
7. May Improve Self-Esteem and Body Image
A sport that’s social, burns calories, and can even make your commute fun? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that roller skating has also been linked to improved self-esteem and body image.
In a 2015 study, researchers found that roller derby players were happier with their body weight Sex Roles “‘Bout Time! Renegotiating the Body in Roller Derby” View Source and condition than non-roller derby players. The study suggests that roller derby may empower people of all weights to have a more positive body image.
8. Can Be Done Anywhere, at Any Time
Roller skating can be an indoor or outdoor activity. You may need different types of wheels for a roller rink than you’d want on rough city streets, but the flexibility you have with this sport is unmatched!
Rain or shine, nothing can stop you from rolling around on your skates.
9. It’s Not Too Pricey
Last but not least, roller skates don’t have to cost a fortune. While high-quality skates can cost between $300 and $600, you can find great deals as low as $50 for a pair.
Protective gear, including a helmet and knee, wrist, and elbow pads, will cost you another $50 to $100—meaning you can start this sport with an initial investment of as little as $100 total.
Popular Skates To Check Out
In case you’re curious, here are some popular roller and in-line skates that you may enjoy:
C7skates Quad Skates
- Style: Cute retro roller skates on 83A durometer wheels (ideal for indoor and outdoor skating)
- Amazon rating: 4.4/5 stars
- Good to know: C7skates creates cute and affordable roller skates, perfect for beginners and those who don’t want to compromise on fashion while they’re out skating. This collection comes in tons of fun colors, and the wheels can be adjusted to your personal speed and mobility preferences.
Moxi Lolly Outdoor Complete Skates
- Style: Handmade suede leather roller skates with 65 x 35 mm outdoor wheels
- Amazon rating: 4.8/5 stars
- Good to know: While they’re the pricier option, Moxi’s roller skates are among the most comfortable shoes you can find. The suede leather doesn’t just look beautiful—it’s also soft on your feet, and the snug fit prevents blisters.
K2 Alexis Rollerblades
- Style: Sporty in-line skate with 4 wheels and brakes in the back
- Amazon rating: 4.5/5 stars
- Good to know: K2 is a trusted brand with skates that can last for decades. They typically run a half size small but fit nice and snug. The wheels glide well, ideal for indoor and outdoor skating!
5 Tips to Make Roller Skating Fun and Safe
Now that you know how good roller (on in-line) skating is for your mental and physical health, let’s go over some of the most important things any newbie should know. This will help you have a safe and fun experience on these little tricky wheels.
1. Wear Safety Gear and Bring a Friend
One of the most common injuries in in-line skating is the distal fracture of the radius Leitthema “[Injury patterns and prophylaxis in inline skating]” View Source . In other words: breaking your forearm close to your wrist. In most cases, this can be prevented by wearing proper protective equipment, which includes a helmet and elbow, knee, and—you guessed it—wrist protectors.
Another study (from back in the ’90s, when roller skating was last super popular) found that wrist guards and elbow pads New England Journal of Medicine “Risk Factors for Injuries from in-Line Skating and the Effectiveness of Safety Gear” View Source are effective against the most common skating injuries.
If you’re skating outdoors, you may also want to don some shades so the sun’s rays don’t blind you. And don’t forget to put on some sunscreen and bring a phone and a friend so you can call for help should you end up injuring yourself. And while we’re at it—stay hydrated!
2. Bend Your Knees
Keeping your knees bent at all times is roller skating 101. If you try to skate with straight legs, you’re much more likely to fall on your back or on your face. So do yourself a favor and keep those knees bent!
3. Learn How To Brake
Before you pick up speed, practice stopping. There are tons of different ways to stop on roller and in-line skates, like tilting your brakes downward or tilting to the side. Running into a wall, fence, or tree should be your absolute last resort.
4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Always look ahead. If you look down, you’ll risk falling over or running into other people or obstacles. Scope out your surroundings before you go somewhere on your wheels to ensure there are no giant potholes or cobblestone, sand, or grass sections on your route.
5. Start With Simple Tricks
Once you start feeling safe rolling around your neighborhood or the local rink, you may feel like trying some of those cool tricks you see on the internet. Start with simple drills and work your way up so you don’t end up injuring yourself.
If you’re shy, don’t forget that you can also practice inside:
To reap the full benefits of this workout, skating for 20-40 minutes two to four times per week will show you quick results. Not only will your skills increase quicker, but you’ll also adhere to the AHA-recommended amount of weekly cardio!
Oh, and don’t forget to use the Ness app to collect points when you buy new protective gear, wheels, or even your first pair of roller skates!
- The differences between roller skates and in-line skates: “THE BASIC DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ROLLER SKATES AND ROLLERBLADES,” Slick Willies (January 2020).
- Yoga practice can help you learn how to balance on roller skates: “Getting Started Roller Skating – Part 9 – Balance, Standing on One Foot & Crossovers – 026,” Roller Skate Dad (September 2022).
- In-line skating can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness: “Exercise responses to running and in-line skating at self-selected paces,” Medicine and science in sports and exercise (February 1996).
- The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week: “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids,” American Heart Association (April 2018).
- Strengthening your glutes can help combar lower back pain: “The effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercise and lumbar stabilization exercise on lumbar muscle strength and balance in chronic low back pain patients,” Journal of physical therapy science (December 2015).
- Information on the Metabolic Equivalent of Task value: “METABOLIC EQUIVALENTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS: WHAT ARE THEY & HOW TO CALCULATE THEM,” NASM.
- MET value of roller skating compared to other activities: “How many calories do you burn with Roller skating?” Burned Calories.
- In-line skating can improve aerobic capacity and help maintain body weight: “Physiological responses to in-line skating compared to treadmill running,” Medicine and science in sports and exercise (February 1995).
- Roller derby enriches people’s lives: “Benefits of Roller Derby: The Roller Girl Perspective,” ACTIVE: Journal of Physical Education, Sport, Health and Recreation (November 2018).
- A strong social support system is linked to stress resilience: “Social Support and Resilience to Stress,” Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)) (May 2007).
- Roller derby may improve body image and self-esteem: “‘Bout Time! Renegotiating the Body in Roller Derby,” Sex Roles (May 2015).
- One of the most common roller skating injuries is the distal fracture of the radius: “[Injury patterns and prophylaxis in inline skating],” Der Orthopade (May 2005).
- Wrist guards and elbow pads are effective against the most common roller skating injuries: “Risk Factors for Injuries from in-Line Skating and the Effectiveness of Safety Gear,” The New England Journal of Medicine (November 1996).