Dr. Florence Comite’s first experience with rollerblading in the early ‘90s involved careening down a steep hill and not knowing how to stop. While that might have turned off other prospective bladers, the longevity expert and endocrinologist was hooked. Not just by the thrill of picking up speed on skates, but by the health benefits of rollerblading, particularly for longevity.
“It’s the best thing in life, I think,” says Dr. Comite. “Finding something you love that is actually great for your health.”
In addition to just loving the feeling of going fast, the reason Dr. Comite personally has been rollerblading a few times a month for three decades is because of the activity’s benefits to both physical and mental health, which go hand in hand with promoting longevity. That’s especially important for Dr. Comite, who runs a precision medicine clinic based on preventing disease and improving healthspan.
While roller skating has been picking up a new generation of devotees for a few years now, rollerblading only started enjoying its latest popular renaissance last summer when Margot Robbie was spotted blading while shooting the Barbie movie. With all of rollerblading’s benefits, that’s a good thing.
Physically, rollerblading builds muscle in a way that also prevents injury, because it both strengthens muscles and supports joints.
“Skating actually calls all the muscles, ligaments, and tendons supporting the knee into play,” Dr. Comite says. “So it improves overall leg strength.”
Building muscle is important to healthy aging for a myriad of reasons, including being able to move safely around the world, maintaining bone density, improving insulin resistance, and even protecting brain and hormone health.
For heart health as we age, Dr. Comite recommends incorporating short bursts of high-intensity activity into your workouts. If you have sensitive joints, that can be hard to do without jumping or running. But rollerblading is low impact, and the ability to pick up speed quickly means you can effectively “sprint” without the joint pressure.
“It’s a great, suitable exercise for people with joint issues and those who want a gentler workout,” says Dr. Comite. “Rollerblading allows you to move side to side. It allows you to use that power. It allows you to do high-intensity training at your will. And it reinforces not only muscle, but bone.”
And, Dr. Comite points out, rollerblading also works your balance, “which is something a lot of folks lose as they age.” Balance is also associated with longevity, both for preventing injury, and for the way it engages your brain and proprioception, or the ability to locate yourself in space. (Of course, though, falls can happen, so Dr. Comite always recommends wearing guards when blading.)
“Choosing a gentler form of a workout that hits muscle, balance, flexibility, and proprioception, I mean you almost can’t do better than that,” she says.
Even with all these benefits to your muscles, bones, heart, and brain, Dr. Comite wouldn’t necessarily do the activity if she didn’t love it. But as it is, it’s been a joy-inducing part of her life since she first bombed down that hill.
“It’s so much fun, it’s social, you’re out in nature, you can chat,” Dr. Comite says. Social connections and getting outside have their own mental health benefits for people of all ages.
And really, the best exercise for longevity is the one that you’ll actually do consistently, since getting regular exercise is one of the most important determinants of long-term health.
“It’s a sport you can hang on to,” Dr. Comite says. “And as long as you wear guards and you’re cognizant of your ability level, then it’s a fantastic way to get exercise. It’s good for your entire body.”
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