Finding physical activity that is both appealing to you and beneficial to your health goals is important, but sometimes it can be a challenge, particularly if you’re new to exercise. You’ve probably heard of “high-impact” versus “low-impact” exercises and assume you must do high-impact activities to lose weight or get fit. However, you can absolutely lose weight and keep active with low-impact exercise.
What Is the Difference Between High- and Low-Impact Exercise?
When you hear the term “impact,” you may initially think it separates the contact versus non-contact sports, but it actually refers to the force placed on your bones and joints by any given physical activity. For instance, exercise such as long-distance running is not a contact sport, but it is high-impact. By contrast, a low-impact exercise places much less strain on the joints, such as swimming or cycling. Low-impact exercises can be extremely beneficial to staying healthy, and are well-suited to those whose bodies require less strain on the joints.
High-impact exercises are more intense cardiovascular workouts, typically burning more calories than low-impact physical activities. Some common types of high-impact exercise include football, soccer, hockey, rugby, or gymnastics, among many others. These types of physical activities can be helpful to maintain physical fitness, and some research shows how putting a degree of stress on the bones may help maintain or even improve bone density.
Should I Do Low-Impact Exercises?
Low-impact exercise may be a good option if you are:
- New to exercise and/or out of shape: If you’re not used to strenuous physical activities, or if you haven’t worked out in a while, it’s helpful to start with those which are not as demanding on the body and joints.
- Diagnosed with arthritis or have joint pain: Low-impact exercise is actually very beneficial for those suffering from joint discomfort. Certain activities in particular help provide stability and strength to the joints, such as swimming.
- Recovering from an injury: High-impact exercise can exacerbate an injury, especially sports injuries. When your healing, it’s important not to overly stress the body.
- Pregnant: Low-impact exercise is recommended for pregnant women, as it can relieve discomfort and prepare the body for labor and delivery. Ask your OB/GYN for recommendations for the best low-impact physical activities for you.
- An older adult: Exercise is important at all ages, but as we get older, and the joints become stiffer. Even 30 minutes of low-impact exercise per day is highly recommended to slow down the process of losing muscle mass.
- Significantly overweight: Excess weight puts stress on the weight-bearing joints. If you have 50 or more pounds to lose, you can ask your doctor for recommendations for the best low-impact exercises to start a fitness routine.
Just because low-impact exercise usually isn’t as demanding on the body as higher-impact exercise, it doesn’t mean low-impact exercise is easy. Exercise like swimming can improve strength and lung function, and cycling is a great lower-body exercise and cardiovascular workout, but neither puts significant strain on your joints. Even simply walking is beneficial, and you start adding an incline to your hikes or walk on different terrains to increase the difficulty level.
Adding low-impact exercise to your lifestyle can positively affect your health, body, and mind. You can effectively improve your strength and build up muscle endurance without putting excessive strain on the joints. Low-impact exercise can also help you lose weight without making joint pain worse, but one of the most important reasons to begin low-impact exercises is to improve your cardiovascular health.
Interested in learning more about how to incorporate physical activity into your schedule? Contact us at ProFysio at (732) 812-5200 or schedule your free consultation online.