Ice skating is fun, fitness, and winter cheer all in one.

7 Reasons to Learn to Skate this Winter

Have you watched skaters glide around an ice rink and wished you could join in the fun? This winter, it could be you under those festive lights, spinning around to lively music and meeting up with friends. And finding a place to ice skating is easy as cities across the country open up seasonal holiday rinks. In San Francisco, the Union Square Holiday Ice Rink opens November 6th and stays open until January 20, 2020.

Here are 7 reasons why learning to skate should be on your t0-do list this winter.

1. Ice Skating Boosts Concentration

Ice skating takes focus – stop paying attention and you’re likely to end up sitting on the ice. And learning to do something new boosts brainpower, too. their powers of extreme focus when ice skating. Losing focus while on the ice is directly correlated with ending up on your bottom.

2. Ice Skating Improves Balance

As everyone finds the first time they step onto the ice, balancing is tricky on skates, at least at first. After all, ice is slippery, and ankles wobble, and it’s a completely new way of trying to stay upright. But give it an hour, and already you’ll notice an improvement. And keeping your balancing ability strong is an important part of staying healthy as you age.

3. Ice Skating Is an Anytime Sport

Once the holiday season rolls around and ice rinks start popping up, you can drop in anytime – no need to plan ahead, join a class, or pay in advance. In fact, since many ice rinks are right downtown, you can stop in spontaneously on your way home from work. And no equipment needed – skates are available for rental on the spot.

4. Skating Trains for Other Sports

Once you really get going on the ice, you’ll go fast, but the muscles you’re using aren’t the same ones you use for running or hiking. Skating may look like running on ice, but ice skating uses leg muscles in different ways than running does. Also, skating has less impact on your joints because it’s more of a side-to-side motion rather than the up-and-down of running. So on days when your knees are bothering you, try skating!

5. Anyone Can Be Graceful on the Ice

Once you get used to it, the gliding motion of skating will make you feel – and look – graceful, regardless of your athletic ability or body type.

6. Ice Skating Can Lead to Other Ice Sports

The popularity of ice hockey has been on the rise in the U.S., with teams like the San Jose Sharks becoming local heroes, and local leagues booming. Learn to skate this winter, and you just might find yourself joining a hockey league in the spring. And if hockey isn’t for you, there’s figure skating, which in some places also includes synchronized skating and ice dancing. And don’t forget roller skating and roller blading – while ice skating isn’t exactly the same, you’ll still have a big heads-up on others lacing up their blades for the first time.

7. Skating Is Good for Kids

Skating builds confidence, improves concentration, and boosts self-esteem. And for middle schoolers and teenagers, it give them a fun, low-key way to meet up with friends, let off steam, and stay busy without getting into trouble.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.