Curling might look like one of the weirdest winter sports, and it is.
There aren’t any other Olympic sports that involve brooms.
But just because curling uses unusual equipment doesn’t make it any less of a serious physical discipline.
In fact, curling is excellent exercise, not just for your body, but for your mind.
What is curling?
Curling is a team sport in which players take turns sliding heavy stones down a sheet of ice towards the “house,” a target of concentric circles at the opposite end.
Teammates work together throughout a curling match by directing other players and sweeping the ice to alter the trajectory of the stone. (That’s where those infamous brooms come in.)
Benefits of Curling
The benefits of curling are many and more varied than a lot of people might realize.
Some benefits of curling include:
- Improved strength (upper and lower body)
- Improved flexibility (especially in the groin and hip flexors)
- Improved agility
- Improved balance (you’re walking on ice!)
- Improved heart health (including lower blood pressure)
- Improved respiratory rates
- Improved sleep
- Enhanced immune response
- Weight loss
- Mental stimulation, which can help:
- Improve cognition
- Improve memory
- Delay cognitive decline
- Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
In fact, curling is such a strategic sport, it is often compared to games like chess, which are well-documented to improve brain function.
Is curling hard?
Yes, curling is hard.
In every possible respect.
Both shooting and sweeping are physically demanding, and good strategy is something that can only be learned over time.
How long does it take to get good at curling?
Learning how to curl can be accomplished in a single afternoon.
The basic movements and rules of the game are fairly simple.
Simple, however, doesn’t mean easy.
Throwing a curling stone requires a good deal of balance and precision.
Getting down to throw the stone requires a fair amount of agility.
Sweeping the entire length of a curling sheet is next-level cardio.
And those are just the physical aspects.
As far as strategy goes, it can takes years of consistent curling to become a great curler.
Most of the curlers you see at the Olympics have been playing since childhood and have played with the same teams for years.
Can I curl every day?
Curling uses a lot of basic body movements – a lunging squat, a push of the arm, a sweeping motion – movements that can be done daily without a lot of wear and tear to the body.
Due to this, in round-robin tournaments at the Olympics teams play every day.
As a beginner, though, curling daily isn’t the best idea.
Though you don’t actually have to lift a curling stone on the ice, it’s still heavy to push, and if you’re not used to lunging squats or sweeping, you will definitely feel them.
Give your body a break and take a rest day between matches as you’re starting out.
Is curling a good workout?
Curling is an excellent workout if you don’t mind your workouts slow and leisurely.
You spend more time simply walking the ice (or walkway between sheets) than doing anything else, but those bursts of activity do take effort.
If you are sweeping during a match, you will get the most physical benefit from curling.
Sweepers in a curling match walk the most and reach aerobic levels of exercise as they sweep.
On average, sweepers walk and sweep over two miles per match.
Can you lose weight curling?
Whether or not you can lose weight curling heavily depends on your role on the ice.
As stated above, sweepers get the best workout, but even sweepers do a lot of standing around during a match.
If you are going from no exercise to curling, you will probably shed some weight, but curling is no replacement for aerobic exercise for weight loss.
Will you build muscle curling?
What curling will help you do is build (some) muscle.
The stance when shooting a stone is a one-legged lunge squat and sliding that heavy stone takes plenty of upper body effort.
But, again, it’s sweeping which builds the most muscle.
There are times when sweeping the ice requires substantial pressure and vigor.
This exerted effort will help build the muscles in your arms and shoulders.
The biggest issue with muscle-building in curling is that it is largely one-sided.
Most curlers lunge with the same leg and shoot with the same arm every time.
This can create some unevenness in muscle growth.
Curling Stone Weight
I can’t believe we’ve made it this far without talking about how much a curling stone weighs!
For the record, the answer is 38-44 pounds.
The curling stones used at the Olympics are 44 pounds.
Learn to Curl (Curling Basics)
If you want to learn how to curl, you’re best bet is to visit your nearest curling club.
They’ll have two things you need to get started with curling – teammates and equipment.
To find your nearest curling club, check out USA Curling’s FIND A CLUB NEAR ME. (You can search the listings by city).
Many curling clubs also hold “Learn to Curl” clinics to teach beginners the basics of the game.
If you’d like to bone up on the rules before you go, they have some great guides at CURLING CANADA.
One of the main reasons it’s best to learn to curl with a curling club (along with finding teammates) is that a curling club will provide all necessary equipment.
A complete set of curling stones costs thousands of dollars and that’s without any of the other necessary gear.
Curling club memberships vary by region, running from under $100 to over $500 per season, but are much cheaper than having to buy your own equipment.
And if you’re unsure about curling, and don’t want to lay out any cash, just ask your local club.
Most will let you pop in for a test run at no charge.
What to Wear Curling
With your equipment provided, the only thing you have to worry about when you go to curl is what to put on your body.
And when it comes to what to wear curling, there are two essential things to keep in mind:
- One, you curl on ice and ice is cold.
- Two, the physicality of curling can warm you up quite a lot.
This means it’s best to dress in layers.
Dressing in layers can be harder to do on your bottom half than on your top half, so wear pants that are both warm and breathable.
This will keep your legs from getting cold, but prevent you from overheating.
Up top, wear a comfortable long sleeve shirt or shirt with a light, flexible jacket.
Over that, you might want a heavier jacket, possibly even a hat and gloves until you warm up enough.
The only clothes to avoid when curling are items that will lose fabric during play (sweaters and other clothes that pill or shed, like corduroy, can drop excessive debris onto the ice) and tight clothing which restricts your movement.
A soft-shell jacket of polyester or another tightly-woven fabric is an ideal curling uniform.
Just stay away from fleece and wool, which are both notorious shedders.
Here are a few soft-shells we really like:
- Salomon Agile Soft-Shell Jacket (Men’s)
- adidas Terrex Tech Flooce Light Hooded Jacket (Women’s)
- Swix Strive Jacket (Women’s)
- Sportful Giara Soft-Shell Jacket (Men’s)
While you’ll want to be comfortable on the ice, nothing you wear above the ankle matters as much as what you wear on your feet when you curl.
Most regular curlers wear specifically-designed curling shoes that have sliders and grippers built-in.
But you don’t have to go that far to try out curling.
Any pair of sneakers or tennis shoes will do. (The curling club will have grippers and sliders you can put on your shoes.)
Just make sure your shoes have some decent grip to them, are clean on the bottoms, and that you carry them to the rink.
Dirty shoes can leave debris on the ice.
Curling at Home
Unless you own your own ice rink, you’re not going to be doing any true curling at home, but if you can’t make it to your nearest rink you don’t have to rule out curling altogether.
There are companies that make recreational curling kits that mimic the curling experience.
Street Curling sells the World Curling Federation’s official iceless curling equipment, as well as a kit that can turn your ice into a curling sheet if you have the space and weather to create your own backyard rink.
A smaller indoor kit by Hearthsong doesn’t allow for quite the same scale, but can still be fun and add some activity to your recreation time.
Curling might be strange and slow moving, but it truly is a full-body (and brain!) sport.
A little one-sided, perhaps, but it engages everything from your head to your toes.
If you are looking to improve your balance, agility, AND sharpen your mental processors, you’ll find few sports that have as much of an impact on all three.
Looking for some inspiration for your next match? Check out Curling Quotes for Inspiration at the Hacks.
Want more yuks with your curling content? Check out our Curling Puns.