Kick scooters aren’t just for kids. They’re heaps of fun for adults, too, and can even be great commuter vehicles.
But compared to kids, we grown-ups have a few more things to worry about. Not the least of them is staying in shape.
Can scooting around town help you do that? In other words, are kick scooters good exercise?
Kick scooters offer excellent, low-impact exercise that works all core and leg muscles at once. They’re also excellent cardio if you try to maintain a brisk pace and/or tackle some hills. On flat ground, a kick scooter burns more calories per mile than cycling and fewer calories per mile than walking. However, most kick scooter models should not be ridden in rain or off-road, so buy carefully if you plan to exercise in demanding conditions like those.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what makes kick scooters terrific exercise, plus a few notes on when they’re not ideal.
And be sure to read through to the end, where I’ll share my personal recommendations entry-level and top-notch scooters for exercise.
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They’re Fun & Effective Cardio
Adult kick scooters strike a perfect balance.
They’re quicker and more exciting than walking, but equally convenient.
They’re also more compact and sidewalk-friendly than bicycles, yet nearly as quick for short stop-and-go trips in town.
All this adds up to a lot of fun–and to invigorating exercise, if you’re so inclined.
As a rule of thumb, a brisk but sustainable effort on a kick scooter means moving about 6-7 mph on flat ground. For the same effort, that’s about twice as fast as a brisk stroll (3-4 mph) and half as fast as an urban bike ride (12-15 mph).
What does that mean for calories burned?
It’s a little hard to say, since there just isn’t much research on the physiology of kick scooter riding. But one paper from the University of Brighton (England) estimates that average-sized riders may burn around 200 calories per 30 minutes of scooting.
That’s perhaps 25% less than you’d burn cycling, and 50% more than you’d burn walking, in the same time period. (But speeds are different, so your 30-minute walk might take just 15-20 on a scooter. That time difference will affect calories burned.)
Perhaps you can indeed have your cake and eat it, too. Just make sure you scoot to the bakery!
You’ll Engage Your Entire Core
Here’s something you might not have thought about.
Whenever you kick on a scooter, your leg has a lot of backward momentum that your torso needs to resist.
There’s also a bit of a twisting motion, since you’re only kicking with one leg at a time.
Your core muscles–abs, obliques, and the dozens of tiny and obscure ones–all play a crucial role in keeping your torso steady.
That’s slightly different from cycling, since the seated position minimizes the amount of twisting and pulling that your core needs to counter.
So, while kick scooters alone won’t give you shredded, washboard abs, they may strengthen them more than you’d expect.
You’ll Use All Your Leg Muscles
Ever notice how your quads ache after a long bike ride, or you get shin splints or sore calves after a run, but you never feel equally fatigued?
Those are both great forms of exercise, but they don’t use your leg muscles all that evenly (at least not with what most of us consider normal technique).
But on a scooter, you’ve got the combination of calf and hamstring engagement when kicking plus quad and glute engagement in your supporting leg.
In fact, many riders are surprised to find that their support leg tires before their kicking leg. It depends on just how high the scooter’s deck is, and therefore how deeply that leg needs to bend.
It’s no substitute for deliberate strength training and stretching, but it’s a surprisingly balanced workout for leg muscles that you might not have engaged in a while.
Caveat: Most Aren’t Meant For Rain Or Rough Terrain
Despite all that’s great about kick scooters, they’re generally relegated to dry conditions and on smooth pavement. (There are a few exceptions, though, and I’ll cover one of them below.)
Why is this? The main reason is that most have very hard, urethane tires that are about 8″-10″ in diameter. Most also rely on a fender-brake, which isn’t very powerful even when totally dry.
That means two things.
Firstly, the hard material doesn’t have much traction on wet ground. If you think about how sketchy it is to go inline skating in the rain, then you’ll understand exactly why a drizzly scooter ride may not end well, either.
Whether turning or stopping, it’s just not a very pleasant experience with a conventional scooter. (But if you do find yourself caught in the rain, then these tips will help you stay safe.)
Secondly, hard and relatively small wheels can’t absorb bumps very well. They feel lightning-fast on nice, clean asphalt…but when gravel and potholes emerge, it’s another story.
When riding for exercise, it’s wise to stick to routes you know are smooth and relaxing at higher speeds.
So, if you’re looking for a method of exercise that works with whatever weather and terrain is at hand, then here are two good options.
One is simply to pick another form of movement when the weather turns foul. Cycling can be a great rainy-day activity. If you prefer less gear, then nothing is wrong with simply walking or running, either!
The second option is to invest in a more capable fitness scooter, like the Swifty Zero (which I’ve reviewed firsthand).
The price is eye-watering, but it’s one of the only models that manages to look stylish while offering air-filled tires and bicycle-style brakes. Those parts are critical for safe riding in unpleasant weather or on rougher surfaces.
Recommendations: My favorite kick scooters for exercise
If a kick scooter sounds like fun exercise, but you’re not yet sure it’s for you, then test the waters with an inexpensive Razor A5 Lux. It’s a deliberately simple design that works well for a marvelously low price. Just realize that you’ll need to stick to pretty ideal conditions to enjoy riding it. Read my Razor A5 Lux review here.
On the other hand, if you’re committed to getting your exercise by scooting all year and on all terrain, then a Swifty can’t be beat. It’s also the way to go if you prefer just to buy the best and never worry about upgrading down the road. Read my Swifty review here.