What the expert says ...
Dannii Hunt-Goldie is a former British Synchronised Skating champion, gold medallist and world championship competitor. She has been coaching for 13 years.
Get your body position right The most common beginner's mistake is to stand too upright. Bend your knees and keep most of your weight on the balls of your feet. Pull your tummy in, keep your shoulders and chest facing forward, your arms slightly out to the side for extra balance.
Stop and go Get moving by taking small steps with your toes pointing outwards until you begin to glide. Bring your feet back to centre between each 'push', otherwise you will lose your control and balance. Learning to stop is a fundamental skill. The easiest way to do it - other than crashing into the barrier - is a 'snowplough', rather like in skiing. From a glide, bring your feet into parallel and then push the heels outwards, keeping knees bent and body upright.
Steer with your shoulders There's no need for fancy footwork when you want to turn. Simply turn the outside shoulder forward (the one on the side furthest from the direction you want to turn) and you will turn in a graceful arc.
Check your blades The blades on your ice skates need to be sharp to get some purchase on the ice. If your skates are slipping and have no grip or control, it could be the blade is too blunt. This is most likely if you have hired skates, which have probably undergone a lot of wear.
Break your fall If - or when! - you fall, get your hands off the ice as quickly as possible. If you need to use your hands to get up, do it with clenched fists to protect your fingers. Manoeuvre yourself on to both knees, then one; push yourself up from the raised knee.
Speed up To really reap the fitness benefits of skating, you need to add some speed. Increasing the power of the push will help you get faster, as will bending your knees more deeply.
Getting started This is the perfect time of year to give ice skating a go, with numerous outdoor ice rinks open between now and the end of January. London alone boasts seven seasonal rinks, including the original, at Somerset House, founded in 2000. For a list of rinks across the UK, go to thisistheatre.com/iceskating.html. To find your nearest permanent ice rink, visit the website of the National Ice Skating Association (NISA, iceskating.org.uk). The UK's first permanent synthetic rink, the Zero Ice Centre in Barnsley, opened earlier this year. NISA runs a learn-to-skate programme called Skate UK, taught by professional coaches at most permanent and seasonal rinks. Somerset House Ice Rink (somersethouseicerink.org.uk, 0870 166 0423) is offering a Skate School this year, with Jayne Torvill as its patron. There are Saturday morning lessons, pairs skating, disabled skating, and a four-week beginners' course. All sessions must be booked in advance. If you want to continue developing your skills, join a club. There are more than 50 in the UK - you'll find a list of those that are NISA-affiliated on the website. And you don't have to contemplate a career in tights if you do show talent. Speed skating and ice hockey both demand exceptional skating skills. Find speed-skating clubs on the NISA website, ice hockey clubs at the English Ice Hockey Association website (eiha.co.uk).
The gear There are two types of skates - figure skates and hockey skates. Most rinks now rent out ice-hockey boots as opposed to figure-skating boots, both for safety reasons and for comfort and durability. If you are buying your own, expect to spend anywhere between pounds 45 and pounds 120. Roces RFG (pounds 57) or Riedell 850s (pounds 67) are good choices for the recreational skater. A good fit is crucial. For ankle protection and responsiveness, the boots should fit quite snugly - not so tight that it hurts, but not far off. You may need to come down a half or full size from your usual shoe size. Specialist skate shop Everglides (everglides.co.uk, 02392 598557) sells a wide range of skates from its online store, and has a comprehensive buying guide. London-based Skate Attack (020-8886 7979, skateattack.co.uk), which also has an online store, is a good bet for your first pair of skates, with an excellent fitting service, while Topskate (topskate.co.uk, 01276 503787) is more figure skating-focused, selling clothing and accessories as well as skates. To keep the blades of your skates sharp, you'll need to take them for an occasional professional regrinding. But the SkateMate (skatemate.com) adjustable pocket skate sharpener (pounds 24) will help delay visits. As for clothing, you can wear pretty much anything as long as it won't billow around or restrict movement - and it provides some warmth. It's best to wear layers, so you can peel off once you warm up. If you are hiring skates, take a couple of different pairs of socks to ensure you get the best fit. And remember gloves to protect your hands and keep them warm.
Better balance Skating helps improve balance and coordination, according to research from the Sports Medicine And Performance Centre at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Calorie expenditure While speed skaters can expend 950 calories per hour, even mere mortals can burn 450‑600 calories on the ice. What's more, the body has to work harder to maintain core temperature in chilly conditions
Aerobic power According to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, elite skaters demonstrated high levels of aerobic power (the amount of energy that can be produced aerobically per unit of time) both in skating and in cycling
Strong thighs The bent knee position means that the thighs are working continuously. Research from University Hospital of Northern Sweden found that the strength of the quadriceps muscles of pro skaters was related to the number of hours spent training per week
Higher bone density A study in the Journal Of Bone And Mineral Research found that, after 30 months of ice hockey training, bone density throughout the body, particularly in the hip and spine, had increased significantly. Further increases were seen after 70 months
Breathing problems Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is high among ice-rink athletes, probably due to breathing in air pollutants used to maintain the ice rink. A study in the journal Medicine & Science In Sport & Exercise found that 39.5% of female ice hockey players had symptoms of EIB.
Lack of safety equipment Unlike inline skaters, ice skaters don't wear helmets, wrist, elbow or knee guards. While the smooth surface reduces the incidence of cuts and grazes, statistics show that ice skaters suffer more head injuries than inline (roller) skaters.
Your age It's difficult to take up ice skating seriously as an adult, as most coaching is aimed at children.