The Benefits Of A Low Impact Workout
7 minutes read
Low impact workout? What’s the point of that, you may ask? After all, working out is often seen as synonymous with working up a sweat. But, for many of us, feeling the burn during a wildly vigorous workout simply isn’t an option, especially for those who have weak joints or previous injuries. But a low impact workout could be the answer. Low impact exercises can offer the same results as their high impact alternatives, but without putting as much stress on your joints, meaning they’re gentler on your body. But don’t be fooled into thinking that a low impact workout means you’ll be in for an easier ride…
What is a low impact workout?
When it comes to exercise, impact means how much force a particular movement puts onto your body. For example, if you vigorously run or skip, when your feet come crashing back to solid ground, and your joints feel the impact. Low impact exercises such as walking, or swimming eliminate or reduce this impact. And low impact workouts aren’t to be sniffed at, with the NHS agreeing that they are a great way improve your health and fitness without harming your joints.
There are lots of reasons that people can’t partake in high impact activities, for example if you are older, pregnant, suffering with joint pain or recovering from an injury. But also, if you’re at the beginning of your fitness journey and want to ease your body into it, low impact workouts are a great place to start. Just remember that everybody is different and before embarking on a new exercise regime, talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have, especially if you have mobility issues or a condition such as arthritis.
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Are low impact exercises beneficial?
Lose weight and gain muscle
Some fitness fanatics worry that a low impact workout won’t have as great an effect on your overall fitness, but actually research proves the opposite. When it comes to calorie burn, a low impact workout offers results that are comparable to high impact versions. Essentially, you can still get a high intensity workout, without it being high impact. Consider weight training, which can sometimes qualify as a low impact workout (speak to your doctor or personal trainer to ascertain whether this is an option for you.) By increasing the weights you lift, you will build muscle, improve your heart health and boost your metabolic rate. Also studies have shown that if you take on a low impact workout routine, you’re more likely to stick to it, harbouring better results in the long term.
Less recovery time
We all know the pain of limping up the stairs after a particularly hard day at the gym, but as low impact exercises put less stress on your body, your need for rest days is reduced – meaning you can remain active between workouts. But remember, if you’re lifting heavy weights, you must ensure your muscles have time to recover and you’re not overtraining.
Fitness isn’t just about losing weight and improving the look of our bodies; exercise is a vital part of keeping healthy in general. Research suggests that low impact workouts such as walking can be as effective at lowering the risk of heart disease as something high impact, like running.
Get mobile and flexible
Low impact workouts such as yoga or Pilates are brilliant ways to increase your flexibility and core strength. In regularly stretching out our muscles, we both utilise and boost our body’s range of motion, without putting any stress on our joints.
Improving mental health
There are lots of studies around exercise and mental health, and repeatedly research has shown that working out can help reduce depression symptoms, boost our mood, and help with managing stress and anxiety. If high impact exercise simply isn’t an option (or the thought of embarking on a run doesn’t tickle your fancy), a low impact workout is a great way to reap these benefits.
Of course, no exercise is completely risk-free and it’s important to add that having good form and breathing technique when you work out are of upmost importance.
What are the best low impact exercises?
Low impact cardio
Cardio exercise aims to get your heart pumping and according to The Mayo Clinic, engaging in it regularly will help you live longer. But don’t fear, running isn’t the only option. Swimming is a fantastic low impact cardio workout as the water provides buoyancy, taking the pressure of your joints and ligaments. Moving through water also gives your muscles something to push against, meaning you get an effective workout. So effective in fact, that one study demonstrated that swimming one mile can burn the calories of a four-mile run. If you’re not a water baby, try step aerobics or the rowing machine at the gym for a non-weight-bearing exercise that will still give put your arms, legs and core through their paces.
Low impact HIIT
If you thought high intensity interval training (HIIT) was solely a high impact activity, think again. Banish burpees and jump squats from your routine and replace with reverse lunges and dumbbell swings. If you feel inclined, try hopping on an assault bike and trying a HIIT routine by pedalling as fast as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat three times. But do remember cycling isn’t a low impact solution for everybody, so listen to your body and don’t push through if something is seriously uncomfortable.
So simple, it almost feels like cheating — but don’t under estimate the power of a good walk. Studies show that regularly taking a stroll can help prevent high blood pressure and heart disease and improve your moods, balance and coordination. Best of all, it’s free! And to make it even kinder to your body, pick a softer surface like grass as opposed to a concrete pavement. To really make the most of it, keep your core engaged and your arms at a 90-degree angle. And if you feel able to, try tackling a hill!
Low impact exercises to try at home
Getting out and about or the gym isn’t always possible, so here are some great ideas if you want to try low impact exercises at home.
Half jumping jacks
A jumping jack, but minus the jumping part! Stand with arms by your sides and simultaneously raise your right arm and step out your right leg before repeating on the left.
Stand with your feet wider than your hips and your toes pointing out. Bend your left knee and reach your right arm to your left toe, keeping your right leg straight. Stand up and repeat on the other side.
Standing oblique crunches
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your hands behind your head and point your elbows out to the sides. Raise your right knee and bend over to meet it with your right elbow (or as close as you can get.) Stand and repeat on the left.
Sit on the edge of a chair with your arms by your side and your palms face down. Scoot forwards so just your hands remain on the chair and bend your elbows to 90 degrees, lowering yourself down and back up again.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, step back with your left foot and bend both knees assuming a lunge position (keep your core engaged). Return to the starting position and repeat on the right side.
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Pro Tip: Good shoes
Wearing properly fitting shoes is a really good investment for low impact exercises. Ill-fitting shoes can cause discomfort, blisters, and even injury. When shoes are too tight, they can cause the skin on your feet to thicken, particularly on the heels. On the other hand, shoes that are too loose can cause your foot to slide around inside the shoe, which can lead to friction and blisters.
- Is a low impact workout good for weight loss?
In a word, yes. Low impact exercises can burn calories as effectively as high impact workouts. You can also build muscle and increase your metabolic rate through low impact workouts.
- What is an example of a low impact workout?
There’s a whole host of low impact workouts to choose from, from walking to Pilates to swimming. For an at-home low impact workout, you can try reverse lunges and tricep dips to name just a few.
- What does low impact workout mean?
Simply put, low impact workouts put less stress on your joints (think less jumping and more swimming.)
- Can you build muscle with low impact?
Studies have shown that lots of low impact exercises can increase your muscle mass and your strength.