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What is a low-impact exercise? It is one that slowly increases your heart rate while placing little pressure or impact on the joints. There are a variety of low-impact exercise styles today, including pilates, yoga, swimming, treadmill walking and more. Some require exercise equipment, but some of the best low impact exercise options do not. The low-impact exercises are ideal for older people, people recovering from an injury and people who are new to exercising.
10 of the Best Low-Impact Exercises
There are many ways to include low-impact exercise into an exercise regimen. The low-impact exercises are particularly helpful for people who are seniors, have joint arthritis, are recovering from an injury, want to better manage a disease like high blood pressure, need to reduce stress or are beginning a weight loss program.
These types of exercises are also great for people suffering with back pain or who need to increase mobility. They are also used to help with recovery from high-impact exercising. Since these exercises exert less stress on the joints and muscles, everyone can do them.
Following are 10 of the best low impact exercises that either target specific needs or general well-being. A few require exercise equipment of some type, but you can develop an entire exercise program that does not require gym equipment. The following list is intended to give you a good idea of the options.
Is walking a low impact exercise? Yes, it is because an excess strain is not exerted on the hip, knee and ankle joints. Walking is often perceived as being less effective compared to running and jogging. However, a study of people who have walked for six years found it offered benefits similar to running in terms of lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and potentially coronary heart disease.
To get the most benefits from walking, you need to walk briskly on a treadmill or outside to increase your heart rate. To get more intensity, increase the incline on the treadmill periodically or walk up a hill outside. You can add distance and shorten the mile-per-minutes rate as you get stronger. As a moderate intensity exercise, you ideally want to walk a minimum of 3 mph or faster.
You can go cycling indoors on a stationary bike or ride a bike outdoors. Cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise which means there is no pounding on the joints. To get your heart rate up, you can pedal fast for 20-30 seconds and then slower for 20-30 seconds, repeating fast and slow as many times as you want. This is a great aerobic workout as well as a muscle-strengthening one.
Is yoga low impact? One of the ideal features of yoga is that it is a full-body workout and has a low impact on the joints. Yoga increases physical flexibility, stretches muscles, lubricates joints and ligaments and even provides cardio benefits because you learn controlled breathing and relaxation methods. Researchers found that yoga increases blood flow and the levels of red blood cells which enables more oxygen to reach cells. Though a good exercise program at any age, seniors like yoga because it is low impact and addresses many of the issues connected to an aging body.
4. Low Impact Jumping Jacks
The low impact jumping jack is a jumping jack without the jumping. You can raise your hands straight above your head while stepping one leg out to the side and lower your hands to your side while bringing the leg back in. Do this same exercise for the other leg and then alternate sides.
Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise and delivers a solid workout. Swimming builds muscle strength, increases flexibility and improves the cardiovascular system. It works the entire body from neck to toes. You can also do water aerobics which is a great low impact exercise for seniors.
Using a rowing machine is another way to get a cardio and total body workout. It is especially good for people with joint issues. Keep your core engaged while pulling and then releasing the handlebar to get the most out of the exercise.
7. Floor Exercises
There are so many different exercises you can do in your living room without equipment that are low-impact. They include the plank, push-ups, squats, standing oblique crunches and lunges, to name a few. You can also use equipment, like hammer curls with dumbbells and the kettlebell swing with a kettlebell. The key to getting the most benefits from these exercises is learning the proper form.
Pilates uses simple exercises done repeatedly to strengthen muscles, increase muscle endurance and flexibility and improve balance and posture. Like yoga, it is a whole-body activity that is focused on breathing, controlled movement and stretching. Exercises include side bends, single leg stretches, shoulder bridge and roll ups, to name a few. Researchers have found that Pilates is a good rehabilitation tool for people experiencing pain or living with a disability.
Hiking can convey the same benefits as walking, but it also offers sights and sounds which can enhance mental benefits. It is a low impact exercise that is easy on the muscles and joints, is versatile and can be as easy or as strenuous as desired. However, you always have one foot on the ground, so hiking is not a high impact exercise.
Though we tend to think of dancing as only entertainment, it can also be a low impact exercise. Dance-based exercise that is low impact but delivers cardio, balance and coordination benefits has no jumping to strain the joints. However, it can be as cardio intensive as desired and it is also a whole body exercise.
Low-Impact and High-Impact Benefits
Too many people never exercise because they believe the exercises must be intense in order to provide real health benefits. They see exercising as increasing their risk of injury or causing more pain. However, the truth is that low-impact exercises are an efficient way to increase flexibility, muscle strength, mobility, cardiovascular health and general well-being.
If you are uncertain about starting a low-impact exercise program, are recovering from an injury or have a health condition like high blood pressure or arthritis, consult your doctor as to the best exercises to meet your needs. Beginning a low-impact exercise routine is an easy strategy for improving health.