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On a Roll: In-line Skating

When I walk in the park near to my Texas home, I’m astounded at the increased popularity of in-line skating (sometimes called rollerblading–called thus after the popular brand-name skates, Rollerblades). For years it’s been a sport of the children and young adults in Southern California.

There, to be on the walkways that run beside the miles and miles of beaches was to surround oneself on all sides with countless bodies, rollerblading at dizzying speeds. Now in-line skating is America’s fastest growing individual sport. Since October is National Skating Month, we decided to take a closer look at this low-impact aerobic activity.

In-line skating offers all of running’s aerobic and cardiovascular pluses with none of the knee-jarring minuses. The side-to-side motion of skating makes it a much easier exercise on the body than the up-and-down pounding of jogging or running. Also comparable to cycling, calories burned rollerblading will be 285 to 450 per half hour, depending on your weight and skating intensity. The muscles worked are in the legs, hips, butt, abdomen, chest, upper back, shoulders, and arms.

My 30-year-old son, who recently took up in-line skating (he has always roller skated and ice skated), swears that rollerblading is a great stressbuster. After a workday sitting at a computer designing software for mega-corporation clients, an hour of rollerblading clears his head, keeps him in shape, and is a lot more fun that being stuck in a gym with the same dull scenery.

As a person with diabetes it’s essential that your skates are properly fitted by a professional. Wear thick cotton socks and carry along an extra pair should your feet sweat. Remember damp feet on a person with diabetes is an invitation for problems and infection. Another absolute must are protective knee pads and elbow pads since concrete isn’t soft should you fall. Always wear a protective helmet. Be a bargain shopper when purchasing protective gear and look for package deals. For extra protection, concrete-friendly bike shorts with padding are available that you can wear under a pair of baggy shorts or sweat pants. You might appreciate this extra padding should you find yourself suddenly sitting down!

Beginners will be taught how to correctly fall to avoid injury, a lesson you’ll greatly appreciate the first time you go cruising the neighborhood. Starting off on your new set of wheels may be a breeze, but stopping may be another matter. Before you hit the crowds in the parks or rinks, be sure you’ve learned how to brake. When the slightest increase in speed make you feel out of control, you’ll be thankful if there’s a patch of grass for a landing zone.

Avoid traffic. Instead, enjoy parks and rinks dedicated to skating. Avoid hazards such as gravel, sand, grease, water, and debris. Parking lots and walkways along the ocean, lake, or river are great places to skate. Just be sure to never skate where there’s a sign prohibiting it. If you do cruise the streets, obey traffic rules. Skate in the direction of traffic and follow pedestrian rules when you come to a stop sign or traffic signal. Use common sense; as a skater, you do not necessarily have the right of way.

Since inline skating is an active sport, you’ll need to check your blood sugar levels before and after skating. If you’re prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), it’s also a good idea to stop at the halfway point and check then as well. Be prepared with carbo snacks in your fanny pack or pocket and/or take along glucose tablets. This is a time when a beverage with a high glycemic index such as orange or other fruit juice might be appropriate before you start out and when you finish.

Discuss this with your health care team so that you’re always prepared. Be sure you wear your medical identification bracelet and skate with another family member or friend. You’ll enjoy the social aspect of cruising together and you’ll have help should you need it. You might even discover a few other skaters at work. It’s also a great way to get the family to exercise together and enjoy the gorgeous fall weather. Consider giving in-line skating a try; it might make you feel like you’re 12 years old again.