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  • By Lisa Jevens

How to burn the same calories as running, without the impact

In-line skating probably is an activity you remember fondly from childhood. However, there’s a resurgence in in-line skating among adults who recognize it as a great workout — particularly for those who can’t run anymore but still seek high-intensity, inexpensive exercise.

People may be unaware that in-line skating burns nearly as many calories as running. According to a University of Massachusetts fitness study, a 150-pound person skating at a speedy 12 mph (average walking speed is about 3 mph) would burn about 714 calories per hour. At a more leisurely speed of 8 mph, the same person would expend about 336 calories per hour. Running burns about 100 calories a mile, experts say, depending on a person’s size.

In-line skating also strengthens your core, hips and glutes. It helps with balance and is easy on the joints. It also builds stamina.“It’s a great core workout,” says longtime certified in-line skating instructor Krista Schreffler, owner of Skater’s Quest in Arlington, Virginia. “It uses different muscles from running because you’re taking lateral strides, so it’s working your adductors, abductors and glutes. I used to run and blew out (the anterior cruciate ligament in my knee) playing sand volleyball. I started skating because it’s less impact on my joints than running, but the same aerobic benefit.

Schreffler says skating provides fitness opportunities and benefits for everyone because you can adjust your speed to your goals: skate casually down a bike path with your kids, or train for skating marathons. (Skater’s Quest offers a class for this.)Yes, there are actually competitive skating marathons, half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks held around the country similar to running events. Some races are held on tracks and some on designated routes.

You can skate in your 60s

Gary Henson is a 61-year-old resident of Cheltenham, Maryland, who started in-line skating in 2014 and worked his way up to a time of 1:13 in a half-marathon in 2015. He and his wife, Mary, 64, were looking to stay fit in retirement when a friend of Gary’s suggested skating.Once she saw how much fun Gary and all his skating pals were having, it didn’t take Mary long to schedule her first lesson this summer. Now they’re both having a wonderful time enjoying the outdoors and each other while staying in shape. And, unlike sweating it out at the gym, in-line skating is fun.

“I thought it was exciting and scary at the same time,” Mary says. “It’s kind of like being a kid again. It’s challenging and works all your muscles. ”Young children can learn to in-line skate at the same age they would learn to roller skate, instructors say.

Experts suggest taking a lesson

No matter your age, a minimum of one lesson is necessary to get started correctly, instructors say. Jane Beech, Owner of Skate U and a longtime instructor based in Silver Spring, Maryland, says it’s critical for a person’s safety to have some instruction because in-line skates do not work like quad roller skates. “The heel braking technique is not intuitive, it’s counter-intuitive,” she says. “If people try it on their own, and they go out on their street and fall, then the skates go in the closet.

”Teaching skaters how to fall and brake are the two most important ways to avoid injury — that and using protective gear. A good skate instructor will recommend a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards for skaters of all ages. “It’s a little cumbersome but it’s like insurance: You hope you don’t have to use it but sometimes you do,” Beech says.

Skating can be a social activity

Once you are up and running — or, rather, skating — you can look for skating groups and clubs to keep you active. Many metro areas have them and hold group skates. Roller rinks also allow in-line skating.

“It’s easier to socialize while you’re skating than biking, which is more solitary because you’re going fast and there is so much wind noise,” Gary Henson says. And you can do it as a family. With a greater emphasis on walking and biking trails in communities, and more bike lanes being added in cities, it might be time to dust off those blades and feel the wind in your face. Don’t forget to queue up some 1990s tunes to keep you smiling as you glide past all those grimacing joggers on your right.

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun "From House to Home" section, and on on August 31, 2015.

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