Ice skating since she was 6, Stephanie Peters, skating director at Midwest Training and Ice Center in St. John, credits her sport with instilling self-discipline, determination and patience, as well as a strong work ethic. She’s competed regionally as a freestyle skater and as a solo ice dancer on a national level.

But for those interesting in learning to either figure or hockey skate, you don’t have to take it to that level, says Peters, who teaches a wide range of classes from beginning toddlers to adults.

“Once people get used to being on the ice, they find they really enjoy it,” Peters says. “And it’s not only fun, it’s also healthy — it’s probably one of the best exercises around because it works different muscle groups.”

For those of use who think of ice skating as just using your legs, Peters says it can also build up your buttocks and arm muscles and core strength and balance.

Peters also points out that skating can be an endurance sport if you push yourself to a hard hour or more workout.

“Ice skating is a way of keeping kids active during the hibernation months,” says Dr. John Johnson at the Immediate Care Center in Schererville. He says it's good for building up coordination and cardio.

“Ice skating has many health benefits,” says Karen Jensen, a certified practitioner of The Feldenkrais Method and The Anat Baniel Method, which improve function and pain-free movement for infants, children and adults. “Some of the more obvious ones being: great aerobic exercise; strengthening muscles of lower body, thighs, butt, legs, ankles; low impact; and if done outdoors, extra fresh air and sunshine. Less obvious but more importantly is the demand on the nervous system created by the need to maintain balance while on a very narrow base of support, the blade of the skate.”

Jensen, who lives in Miller Beach, says that in her practice she works with many individuals to improve their balance, from children on the spectrum, infants having difficulty learning basic rolling or walking, to adults and seniors whose balance is declining. Maintaining good balance throughout life is also directly linked to improved cognitive skills. This can impact children in school and help guard against dementia.

“That’s why it’s important for kids — and their parents — to take the opportunity to get out there and skate or do some other exercise that challenges your balance,” she says.

Ice skating also can be a major calorie burner. According to Reader’s Digest Best Health, the caloric burn depends on your speed. A 155-pound woman skating slowly burns about 387 calories per hour while the type of fast, full-out skating you get playing hockey typically burns 633 calories per hour. Other factors include whether your inside and outside because skating outside can provide a bit more of a workout than an indoor rink since you’re contending with wind and bumpier, harder ice.

Many of the local ice arenas, including Midwest and Deep River Waterpark, offer classes and skating events for kids, adults and families. Deep River also hosts skate parties for young kids.

“We have an Olympic-style ice rink, which is 100-feet wide by 200-feet long, compared to an NHL rink, which is 200-feet long and 85-feet wide, so we can section off areas and have lots of different groups if we want,” says Frank Ruvoli, marketing coordinator at Midwest Training and Ice Center. "We also offer a lot of different classes such as, for beginners, a learn to skate with an introduction to both figure skating and hockey-style skating.”

Midwest also has a daily open skate, which Ruvoli describes as perfect for families coming together to enjoy an activity.

“We get kids who can barely stand up that by the end of the month are skating,” says Macie Carpenter, manager of Central Park Plaza Ice Skating in Valparaiso, about their sessions, which last about a month. “I just moved one tot up to a beginner level. Skating is a great activity and a good way to get kids and their families out of the house when it’s cold. It helps with coordination and motivation. And it’s something you can do year round.”