By Carol Goldberg

If you like to skate and want to burn fat, here’s something to get your mind around this fall: inline skating burns, on average, between 570 and 900 calories an hour! In fact, studies have found that inline skating is more aerobic than cycling, while producing less than half the impact shock to joints as running. If you skate enough to burn off 800 calories a day, you can lose 20 pounds in about three months. And among the added benefits of skating regularly: incredible legs and a great butt! So, if you’ve got a pair of skates gathering dust in your closet, this could be the perfect time to dust them off.

Safety First

Before you get rolling, take into consideration some important tips from the International Inline Skating Association. First and foremost is to protect yourself. Even if you think knee and elbow pads are bulky or unattractive, get over it— this equipment can really reduce your risk of injury. A helmet is a must, as are wrist guards. Of all inline skating injuries, 25 percent are wrist fractures or sprains and another 13.5 percent involve the lower arm.

It’s also a good idea to take some lessons, especially if it’s been awhile since you last skated or if you’re a beginner. After all, you want to be able to stop without the help of a tree or parked car, and without unceremoniously landing on your butt! It’s also a good idea to know how to turn and change direction for the same reasons.

Give those pedicured tootsies a break and wear skates that are comfortable. Soft boots offer breathability; hard boots offer stability. You might even try renting skates first to see which type works best for you. Also, opt for a pair with large heels; they help increase speed, which will add to your workout.

Secrets of Success

The secret to a rigorous skating workout is to add speed and distance. With these two elements, skating can become not only a cardio workout, but also a strength-training workout. For cardio, begin with one mile and increase your distance by one or two miles each week until you’ve reached your goal. For strength, try the interval approach: in 5-minute blocks of time, skate as fast as possible for 30 seconds, then go slower for 4.5 minutes. Initially, aim for three such time blocks per workout, and gradually build up to 10. Each week, increase the speed interval until you’re skating fast for 2.5 minutes and slow for 2.5 minutes.

As we’ve said, you can burn off 20 pounds in three months if you skate enough to burn 800 calories a day. Of course, the amount of skating needed to accomplish this goal varies from person to person, because it all depends on bodyweight and skating speed. On average, if you weigh 120 pounds and skate at 10 mph, you’ll burn 7.4 calories per minute, or 444 calories in an hour. At the same weight, if you skate at 15 mph, you’ll burn 15.2 calories per minute, or 912 calories an hour.

Form Matters

Remember that form matters. For best results, you should be crouched like a speed skater. The “tucked” position, together with your arms swinging, puts power and speed into your strides. Improving your form will help you skate longer and faster. However, skating in an upright position is also acceptable. Research has shown that inline skating enthusiasts who want a long workout, but suffer from muscle fatigue and soreness, can avoid the pain by skating in an upright position. That’s because muscle glycogen decreases as muscle contraction (crouching) increases.

Mix Things Up

Finally, consider cross-training. You might add running or cycling to complement your inline skating workouts. And head for the gym to work on your “tuck” position. Do this with crunches and seated or dumbbell rows to build strength in your lower back and ab muscles. For general leg strength, focus on your glutes, hamstrings and quads with squats, lunges and wall-sits. (Wall-sits: with your back against a wall, slide down into a sitting position and hold for 30-60 seconds).