The complete guide to walking vs. rollerblading - what burns the most calories, which muscles do they each use, and which is the best activity for you?
You’ve got a choice: walk out your front door and go for a stroll , or strap on those skates and do the same thing with wheels on your feet. Your goal is to get the most bang for your buck. You want to lose weight, you want to look good, you want to improve your body and your fitness and enjoy yourself. So which should you choose?
Which is better out of rollerblading and walking? For pure calories burned per minute rollerblading is better burning on average 8.7 per minute versus a brisk walking’s 6.2. If you want to get cardiovascular fitness rollerblading allows you to sprint and exert more effort, it also recruits more muscle groups including your core, and it’s a lot of fun.Is walking or rollerblading better
Right, well, that wasn’t much of an answer really. I mean, it answers which is probably better for fitness (rollerblading) but it doesn’t give you much detail why, and it doesn’t explore exactly what the precise differences between the two are. It also doesn’t help you make a choice between the two based on your personal circumstances. To get to the core of that, I’m facing off walking and rollerblading in a Match To The Death (but hopefully no one will die after reading this).
Are you ready?
So I’ve said above that skating burns more calories – which makes sense when you think about it because you’re generally moving faster, recruiting more muscles and balancing, but is this always true? And how big is the difference?
Calories burned when walking for 30 minutes:
3.5 mph walk (you’ll do a mile in 17 minutes, so think of the last time you walked about a mile and you’ll get an idea, it’s fairly slow) – For a 125 lb person, 120 calories burned in that 30 minutes, 155 lb person burns 149 and 185 lb person burns 178 calories.
4 mph walk: 135, 167, and 200 calories respectively for the those weights.
4.5 mph: 150, 186, and 222 calories burned on average.
Of course you won’t burn exactly this, it’s an average. So many factors like the heat, your fitness, fat to muscle ratio, will all come into play but it gives you a ballpark.
Now for rollerblading:
For a 125lb person, you’ll burn 210 calories rollerblading for 30 minutes.
155lb person will burn 260 calories
185lb person will burn 311 calories.
So, let’s compare skating with a brisk walk, as a 185 lb person.
Skating = 311 calories
Brisk walk = 222 calories.
That’s almost 100 calories more, or about 40% more calories burned while rollerblading over the same time period.
That’s a decent chunk more if you start talking about the difference between a two hour rollerblade session and a two hour walk, which would be:
Skating = 1,244 calories
Brisk walk = 888 calories
Over two hours you’d burn 356 calories more.
That’s a (healthy) meal of 2 strips of turkey bacon, 2 scrambled eggs and some toast with low fat butter.
So, if you’ve got two hours to kill and can’t run for that long, it’s not a bad way to burn the calories. Also, you can probably handle a skate for two hours in relative comfort whereas some other exercises are going to be tough. Other exercises will burn more of course, it’s not the best calorie burning activity around but compared to walking, it does well.
In fact it wins this round.
You can imagine this in the fight (totally skip this bit, no more useful information here, just imagery):
Both contenders step into the ring. One of them wearing a pair of old, muddy walking boots. The other some bright orange K2 skates.
The skater is keeping their body up against the forces trying to push her back, forwards, left and right, engaging core muscles and hips in a way the walker doesn’t need to. The rollerblader (room permitting) pushes out further than a walker’s steps, left and right, engaging their calves, quadriceps and hamstrings to stabilise and push off in longer intervals than the walker.
Onto round 2. I promise not to take you on such a long jaunt now, straight to the meat (literally):
Primary muscle groups:
Hips, hamstring, quadriceps, gluteus maximus and the calf
Supporting muscle groups:
Upper abdominals, lower abdominals and the biceps
No auxiliary muscles used
Primary muscle groups:
Hips, hamstring, quadriceps, gluteus maximus and calf (sound familiar?)
Support muscle groups:
Biceps, upper abdominals and lower abdominals (this too?)
Auxiliary muscle groups:
Anterior serratus, and latissimus dorsi
(These are the ones above your hip on the side and which stretch around the sides of your middle back, when you are bending around)
So the main difference in the muscles used is probably also a matter of degree in the movement. The movement of skating is pushing down and outwards requiring your hip flexors to a greater degree, alongside a set of muscles in your core to stabilise your body through this motion. The aforementioned auxiliary muscle groups come into play to help control your balance.
Rollerblading wins this round too.
Okay, we’ve jumped outside of fitness and health now, skipped completely over endurance (the answer to that question is: endurance for what? Walking is better for walking endurance…).
Which is the more practical activity? Well, I think this might be a slam dunk for walking. Pretty much all you need for walking is some working legs (and not even both really). You could probably do with a pair of shoes…
Skating on the other hand, has the following drawbacks:
So, round 3 is taken by the challenger, walking.
One consideration here though, and what this section is really about, is that in your choice of activity you have to work out how it’s going to change your weekly routine, how your life changes around the activity, and how you must make it something that’s easy and practical to do. More on this in the philosophical rant at the end, if you make it that far (and if you do, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart).
Okay, let’s dive right in and pretend for the skate of argument you’re walking across the Rocky mountains, smeared in deer meat. There’s a chance, however small, that a Mountain Lion is going to come and maul you, and unless you’re this guy then you’re done for.
But in slightly more common scenarios, walking poses little risk.
In contrast, skating has the following risk:
But this can come in various guises, including other people or traffic. Slipping on slippery surfaces, falling over at speed. This can involve broken bones if your fall is a bad one. However, typically if you get yourself set up right, skating in the right places with the right skill level, this shouldn’t really happen to you. Of course if your idea of good exercise is skating on a half pipe (which is definitely good exercise), then your risks will increase.
Walking wins this one too.
So that brings us to the deciding final round.
If skating looks dangerous, reckless, and instills fear deep inside, you’re not going to think skating could be more fun. If beautiful crisp mountain air, incredible sights of the country beneath your hiking boots lifts up your spirit, you’re going to say walking is the most fun. And it can definitely be fun.
But skating is more fun.
Skating is a constant process of just about not falling being propelled by an invisible force, like you’re flying just above the pavement. You have to stop in weird ways and flow from side to side around obstacles. The ground randomly changes its vibration through your body, you feel like a child again. If you skated when young it conjures up memories of that total freedom you lost once the realities of capitalism bore through your skull. It thrusts the wind in your face even when there’s no breeze. It makes the world move around you faster than you could run through it with about half the effort, and none if you’re going downhill. Once you can skate comfortably, skating is more fun than walking.
Skating wins the final round.
Skating takes it, 3 rounds to 2.
Do you think this is biased? If this was walkingworld.com I wonder who would win?
A couple of helpful considerations when skating:
If you can find a big group to skate with, like in London UK they do a “Sunday skate” through the city, this could be a great way to get it started as a habit.
Some other questions you might be interested in:
A 160lb adult burns about 220 calories per 30 minutes of hiking. About the same as a brisk walk. So if you had a brisk walk while hiking you would burn more still. And by that point, a brisk walk while hiking over hills, I think you’re basically hitting the level of rollerblading or perhaps depending on the terrain exceeding it.
A fun calculator here
So, are we talking about spot fat reduction here?
The scientific consensus (which is basically right most of the time) is that spot fat reduction is a myth. A bunch of studies looking for it haven’t been able to find it, so even if we believe the internet people (here and here) who believe it is possible, it doesn’t seem to be something you should expect to happen.
It turns out fat starts just disappearing from all around your body, though there may be more detail to it than that… But doing 1000 sit ups won’t give you abs unless you’re also burning off more calories than you eat every day for weeks on end.
However…. Doing 1000 sit ups will build those abs hidden by your fat… Similarly, rollerblading (and walking for that matter) will build the muscles they use, including your legs, and bum. And as long as you keep burning off more calories than you’re eating, you can tone these specific areas quite well by doing these exercises.
Warning: long rant ahead, and it’s not all to do with simply walking vs. skating. It’s a bit about your mindset. You can skip if you’re only here for the stats.
People often treat exercise like choosing between a food they want to eat or a movie they want to watch. But I wish to convince you it’s more like a house you inhabit, than something you consume.
To get exercise to work for you, it has to become part of what you do, not just what you are planning to do or what you just did. It’s a change to your weekly routines that becomes permanent. It raises itself to the level of lifestyle. You find ways to move things around your schedule so you can fit your activity in. You get, to some hopefully healthy extend, to become dependent on it. You look forward to it, and you miss it when it’s taken away from you due to illness or injury.
Trying to approach exercise without realising this – especially when you’re not used to exercise – doesn’t give you the right framework to help you navigate your setbacks, help you set up a routine built to last, or to find the enjoyment in the activity. It means you can perceive missing out on exercise as a failure, rather than legitimately feeling you’re unlucky this time, and wanting to go. It means you are more likely to set unrealistic (and stupid) goals, or to begin something that you have no chance in hell of repeating every week for a month, let alone a year.
Of course, talking about this mindset might sound great, but actually entering it isn’t a matter of flicking a switch in your head. Even if you manage to change how you frame activity, it’s probably going to take you a while to learn what parts of the exercise (which is often some hard work after all) you actually enjoy, which bits motivate you to continue, and a while to find a good routine.
Back to the bit about skating versus walking:
All of the above is relevant because you want to ask yourself what change to your lifestyle are you going to enjoy the most, and what are you going to be able to sustain the longest. For your personal circumstances it’s unlikely it will be a question of which will give you instantly the most bang for your buck, which will burn the most calories per minute per pound, which targets the most muscle groups, which gives you a great ass…
Which gives the best return on your wellbeing and happiness?
There is no right answer to which lifestyle is right, but don’t evade the fact that it is a lifestyle choice that you are making.
Given this, there are some factors you might like to consider which could be pretty relevant:
How does your life change?
Well, I hoped at least some of this was helpful or interesting. If none of it was, I’m afraid it’s too late to do anything about that.
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