Roller skating almost didn’t happen. John Merlin was the first recorded person to invent a roller skate in the 1760s in London, England. His skate design actually had the wheels inline like today’s skates. Unfortunately, or so the story goes, he wore a pair of his new skates to a party. Though he was a well-known inventor, he was not a good skater and crashed into a large mirror, severely injuring himself and setting back the sport of roller skating for years.
In 1863, American, James Plimpton found a way to make a useable pair of skates with two parallel sets of wheels, one pair under the ball of the foot and the other pair under the heel. This design was the first “dry-land” skate that could maneuver in a smooth curve. This is widely considered the birth of the modern four-wheeled roller skates, which allowed for turns and the ability to skate backwards.
In 1884 the invention of pin ball-bearing wheels made rolling easier and skates lighter. Roller skating increased in popularity well into the 1960’s when kids and teens turned to other sports activities.
In 1979, roller skating got a rebirth from brothers Scott and Brennan Olson who discovered an antique pair of roller skates like John Merlin’s. They redesigned roller skates, taking design elements from the found skates and used modern materials including polyurethane wheels, attached to ice hockey boots, and added a rubber toe-brake to their design. The modern inline skate was born.
In 1983 Olson founded Rollerblade Inc. and the term rollerblading became synonymous with the sport of in-line skating because Rollerblade Inc. was the only manufacturer of in-line skates for a long time.
In-line skating was initially popular among ice hockey players who were looking for an easy way to train during off season. Since that time people young and old have taken up the sport or roller skating for fun and health and fitness.
Aerobic benefits. According to Dr. Carl Foster, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and coordinator of sports medicine and sports science for the United States Speed Skating Team, inline skating provides aerobic benefits that compare to running and biking and delivers a better cardiovascular workout than stair-stepping equipment. Just 20 to 30 minutes of additional inline skating activity each day will help your body become physically stronger and lower the risk of heart disease.
Inline skating was found to be a better aerobic workout than cycling, but not as good as running. This is because coasting is easier while cycling than skating, and impossible while running.
Inline skaters can increase their aerobic workout by:
- Skating harder/faster or uphill (but not until you’ve mastered stopping from high speeds or downhill inclines!)
- Try long distance skating at a slow, steady pace to improve endurance.
- Skate regularly to achieve long-term aerobic benefits.
Anaerobic Benefits. The anaerobic benefits are actually better than running or biking, because skating provides a natural and smooth side-to-side movement that exercises inner thigh and buttocks muscles. You can also develop hamstring, quad and calf muscles by combining forward, backward maneuvers while skating. It strengthens upper arms and helps build the muscles of the lower back and abdomen.
Burns Calories. Skating at a steady comfortable rate expends 285 calories in 30 minutes. Interval skating, (alternating one minute of hard skating in a tuck position with one minute of easy skating in an upright position) expends 450 calories in 30 minutes.
Improves Balance and Coordination. Balance and coordination both benefit from inline skating. Skating requires agility and the ability to balance on a single foot. More advanced movements require skaters to develop even more coordination. Skating also increases joint flexibility and strength.
Inline skaters can increase their skills by: Adding poses, spirals and other single foot balance challenges to your life both on and off skates.
Stress Reduction. Skating can be an opportunity for much-needed quiet time. Choose scenic skating locations to take full advantage of the experience. Traillink has tons of trails and can be searched by zip code.
You can also choose a skating buddy to help brighten your mood. Since it’s fun and provides opportunities for socialization, most fitness and recreational inline skater’s “roll” longer than participants in other similar activities.
Low Impact. Skating generates up to half the impact shock to joints, ligaments and tendons that running creates. Though in the early learning curve you may have some impacts from falling!
Be sure to skate on smooth surfaces to get the full benefit of low impact on knees and back.
Skating does involve balancing on wheels and moving at speeds faster than a walk. As such, it is possible to fall – especially early in your learning curve. Be sure to wear the proper safety gear to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Although you can skate almost anywhere, when starting out you should skate in places free of traffic that have a smooth surface.
Other safety features to consider:
- Inline skates with a heel brake on one of them
- Knee pads
- Wrist pads
- Elbow pads
- A skate or cycle helmet