Putting Fun, Fitness, and Glucose Control On Ice

Ice skating is a great way to have fun, and get the heart healthy, glucose lowering, calorie burning exercise we need.

Though it’s become a year-round activity thanks to indoor rinks, winter gives those of us living in cold climes the chance to enjoy crisp fresh air and bright winter skies as we glide over frozen ponds.

Skating Advantages

Whether done indoors or out, ice skating provides at least five types of health benefit for blood sugar, waistline, and overall health management:

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  1. Like all physical activity, skating helps the body utilize glucose to keep blood sugar levels down. Skating is also an effective way to burn calories for weight loss or maintenance. Depending on their speed, skaters use 300 to 650 calories per hour.
  2. Since skating is so much fun it hardly seems like the excellent aerobic workout that it is. Diabetes increases heart disease risk, so getting regular aerobic exercise is important. Ice skating is also a good way to increase physical endurance because once leg strength is built-up, most people can easily skate 30 to 60 minutes, or longer.
  3. Skating’s movements improve the flexibility of our body’s lower joints, while toning and strengthening our leg, hip, abdominal, lower-back, and south-side muscles. Upper body muscles are also engaged to help us maintain balance, and coordinate the body’s actions.
  4. Because skating requires us to glide on one foot, and then the other, it enhances our sense of balance—and since no one wants to fall our incentive to master skating’s balancing act is high.
  5. Beside being a physical activity, ice skating can also be a social one. Having fun with family and friends is a proven way to relieve stress, and give our mood a boost.

Naturally, since ice is hard and skaters fall, not everyone belongs on a rink—especially people with balance, bone, and joint problems. Those who have chronic health issues, or have been sedentary need to consult with a doctor before taking up skating, or any new physical activity.

Skate Tips

Though many rinks rent skates, buying a pair is preferable since the fit will be better. It’s also a good idea to consider new skates if yours have been collecting dust in the attic for a decade or two (or three). With all the new materials used, today’s skates are far more comfortable than those of yesteryear.

Keep in mind:

  • Skates often run a size smaller than your normal shoe size.
  • It’s best to wear thin wool or fitness socks with skates.
  • When trying on a new pair, lace them firmly and stand up. Your heel should be at the back of the boot, and toes should not touch the front. Heels and ankles should feel snug, but never squeezed or painful.
  • Before taking new skates on the ice, have store, or local rink personnel sharpen the blades. Sharpening once each winter is fine for leisurely, weekly indoor skating. Outdoor ice is grittier, so blades may need sharpening after every outing, or two.

Those fortunate enough to live near frozen lakes, rivers, or ponds are recommended to skate in designated, well-maintained areas. Be aware that safe ice is at least four inches thick, and clear blue ice is the strongest. Avoid grey ice—it’s unsafe.

Sources: Best Health; Becic, Samir, ReSYNC Your Life, Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2017
Photo credit: Benson Kua

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