Imagine gliding so gracefully and with such ease across a clear frozen surface that you feel as close to flying as you can get without leaving the ground. A heightened sense of freedom and excitement washes over you as you slide along completely confident and yet balanced on only two sharp blades. Even though it just seems like fun, ice skating is actually very good for you. There are many physical, psychological and social advantages to ice skating. Best of all, age is not a restriction.
Sure, cute little kids take to the ice quickly. They don’t mind falling because they don’t have far to fall. It gets a little more challenging for adults, but once they learn how to fall on their backsides, there’s no stopping anyone of any age. Lisa Fedick, the president and general manager of Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport, explains that “there’s an art in falling and this is a skill that is typically taught in a novice skater’s first lesson … The key is to relax and allow the body to roll onto the hips and buttocks, which are naturally padded. Attempting to break a fall with hands and wrists can result in injuries.”
Once you know how to fall, the rest is all about low-impact movement. While running is hard on joints, ice skating is not. Ice skating burns about 500 calories an hour, and is a lot more fun than a treadmill or stationary bike. According to Fedick, 11 laps around the rink is equivalent to one mile of running and a lot more fun. “For seniors, ice skating is an opportunity to get real exercise with minimal risk of injury,” says Fedick, who notes that one 70-year-old gentleman is a regular at Wonderland during public skating sessions. “Whether skaters are in their 70s or 80s, there’s always a sense of independence that is most cherished, especially in the older skaters.”
As for psychological benefits, Fedick says your mind is always working and learning. You gain self-confidence and self-esteem as you continually challenge yourself to learn new skills and techniques. Ice skating is also a great stress reliever as you concentrate on acquiring new skills. It’s an activity that a family can do together or individually. Many parents enjoy skating with their young ones who are just learning to skate. The parents push learners who are seated on fun plastic seals that provide stability.
In addition to muscular flexibility, lowered risk of heart disease, improved circulation, and greater alertness and energy, ice skating improves balance and coordination (healthline.com), studies show. There are so many advantages that every expert, director, and instructor in the area had lists of health benefits — some quite unexpected.
Dannon Haliskoe, the director of skating at the Danbury Ice Arena in Danbury, says that the Winter Olympic skaters typically inspire people to take to the ice. “Half of the people who want to learn to skate do so for purely recreational purposes. … The other half wants to compete,” she says. She also notes that while some people have a natural ability for skating, everyone improves and gets better. While pointing out the benefits to lungs and heart, she says that the social benefits are amazing.
“Older people love to chat with the younger kids. Even my 14-year-old likes to hang out with skaters of all ages. You don’t usually see this kind of camaraderie anywhere else. Certainly you don’t find it at school or on playgrounds. Skaters like to hang out with each other no matter what the age, and they are not usually on cell phones or iPads when they’re skating,” she explains, which is one advantage parents can find in encouraging their children to skate. “Skaters support and congratulate each other over individual progress,” she says. Best of all, no one is home sitting on a couch.
Kim Carter, the skating instructor at the Winter Garden Ice Arena in Ridgefield, says that she’s been teaching skating for 19 years, and one thing she has learned is to never count anyone out. “People progress at different rates and different levels,” she says. “I was an adult when I decided to learn to skate. There weren’t any beginner adult classes at the time. I was in with 5-year-olds. However, nothing was going to stop me. I now have several adult students who have competed, including a 60-year-old who has won medals. She started skating in her 40s and works for the city of Danbury, but nothing stops her either — certainly not age.
Since more and more adults are recognizing the advantages of skating when it comes to exercise, Wonderland of Ice’s Fedick, who also happens to be the head coach of the Sacred Heart University intercollegiate figure skating team, as well as a three-time U.S. Junior Olympics coach, has created a program called “Ice Aerobics,” which is designed for novice-level adults and based on well-organized routines.
“The greatest gift of skating is self-confidence. You learn that you cannot progress without falling down, and every time you do, you are going to get right back up and try again. The lows can be very low, but the highs can be very high. Those moments when it all comes together makes it all worthwhile, no matter what the age,” she concludes.