High-impact exercise isn’t for everyone – and it may not be for you all the time. Even if you don’t have an injury, sometimes your muscles and joints need a rest. The best way to give them a break and still get a cardiovascular workout is with low-impact workouts, where both feet don’t leave the ground at the same time. But don’t equate low-impact with “easy.” Just because it’s low impact doesn’t mean it’s low intensity. You can still get an effective workout without running or jumping.
Why Do Low-Impact Workouts?
There are a number of reasons to do low-impact workouts. You may have had a recent injury that hasn’t fully healed or have joint issues that make it painful to do a lot of jumping around. Some women turn to low-impact exercise during pregnancy. Plus, doing low-impact workouts between higher impact ones are a good way to give your joints rest even if you aren’t injured and don’t have joint problems. Plus, if you mostly do high-impact exercise, it’s fun to try something different. Doing workouts where you run and jump every day increases your risk of injury.
Low-Impact Workout Options: Spinning
When you think of options for low-impact workouts, does walking or swimming come to mind? These certainly qualify as low impact because one foot stays on the ground all the time – but they aren’t the only choices. If you want a more intense workout that’s still easy on the joints, try a spin workout. With an exercise bike and a DVD like my Cycle Max or Ride workouts for motivation, you can get a challenging, heart-pumping cardiovascular workout without stress on your joints.
Why spinning? With spinning the intensity is constantly changing, tapping into both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. With spinning, you can get a workout that’s just as intense as any high-impact exercise without stressing your joints. You control the resistance so you can continuously challenge yourself to work harder. Plus, you’re working large muscles in your lower body to maximize the calorie burn while activating your core muscles.
Spinning is a great boredom buster since you’re constantly changing the resistance and your position as you sit or stand while pedaling. Time goes by quickly with a spin workout. Even if you’re accustomed to doing high-impact, high-intensity exercise, you’ll find it to be challenging, motivating and satisfying.
Step Low-Impact Workouts
Low Impact step workouts are another way to get a cardiovascular workout without jumping or placing a lot of stress on your joints. Stepping up and down off a platform increases the calorie burn without stressing your joints so you get an effective cardiovascular workout at a lower speed and without significant impact.
It is also important to note that there is very little impact on jumping up on a step since the impact on your joints is totally dependent on gravity and how far you fall back to earth. When you jump up on a step you usually only jump an inch or so more than the height of the step. This means the impact on your joints when you land on the raised step is very small since there is only about a one-inch difference between the maximum height of your jump and the step platform. The step platform and risers also act as shock absorbers and this helps to further reduce the stress on your joints.
Step workouts have the added benefit of improving coordination and your sense of proprioception, awareness of where your body is in space. Developing coordination and proprioception reduces your risk for falls and injuries. It’s a workout you can easily do at home using a step DVD like my Low Max or Low Impact Challenge step workouts.
Circuit Training Low-Impact Workouts
For the ultimate whole body workout that’s easy on the joints, alternate low-impact step moves with resistance exercises using dumbbells. Doing this challenges your cardiovascular system and increases muscle endurance. Research shows that circuit workouts, like my Xtrain All Out Low Impact HiiT or Cardio Supersets, are one of the most effective ways to burn fat and are a time-effective way to get a total body workout. There are other advantages as well. Breaking up periods of cardio with resistance exercises is more psychologically stimulating than doing sustained periods of cardio. This type of workout is ideal if you’re short on time and need to work your entire body fast. It’ll give your metabolism a boost without running or jumping.
The Bottom Line?
These low-impact workout ideas are ideal when you want a high-intensity workout that’s easy on your joints and spine. Even if you’re free of injury and have no joint issues, use them as a break between high-impact workouts or to mix up your fitness routine. It’s important to add new challenges and step, spinning and circuit workouts add variety and intensity that’s easy on the joints.
IDEA Today, 14(1), 32-43.