Skating on Ice Significantly Increases Children’s Balance and Stability
Learning to ice skate significantly increased children’s balance and stability, potentially reducing their risk of falls, says a small study in the current issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
Balance control is important for motor development in childhood. Previous studies found children didn’t respond to conventional balance training, possibly because it wasn’t appealing, the researchers said. An estimated 8,000 children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments daily for fall-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, conducted in Switzerland, involved 30 girls and boys from one school, age 13 years old on average. None had received balance training or been taught to skate. About half the students received 90-minute skating lessons twice a week for a month during physical-education classes. The rest of the students, a control group, performed routine exercises during the classes.
Balance was assessed before and after the study. In one test, the children were told to keep to a minimum, as much as possible, the movement of an oscillating platform while standing on one leg, with hands on hips and the knee slightly bent. Platform sway was assessed in six trials of about 30 seconds each. In three of the trials, platform oscillation was accelerated.
For more of the Research Report:
The skating group reduced platform sway by 44% on average during normal and accelerated oscillation, compared with their pretraining abilities, indicating significantly enhanced balance control, the researchers said. Control students reduced normal and accelerated platform oscillation by 8% and 4%, respectively.
The subjects were also tested on how far they could reach forward while standing on solid ground without losing balance or lifting their heels.
Forward leaning distance increased an average of 7.2% in skaters and 1.9% in controls. No gender differences were found.
Caveat: The long-term effects of skating lessons on falls aren’t known.