Low Impact Training: A Gentle Approach to Fitness
In the world of fitness, high-intensity workouts often steal the spotlight. However, low-impact training, a form of exercise that is often overlooked, deserves some attention. While low-impact exercises may not make headlines like their more intense counterparts, they have been utilized by professional athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals seeking to prevent injuries for decades. These exercises not only help athletes recover from strenuous workouts but also provide a gentler approach to fitness that keeps the body in shape and reduces the risk of injuries.
Low-impact workouts are exercises that minimize stress and strain on the joints, making them suitable for individuals with joint issues, chronic pain, beginners, or those looking for a gentler form of exercise. Holly Dixon, a certified personal trainer, explains that incorporating low-impact workouts into your routine helps balance the body and prevent injuries. These workouts should be a regular part of your programming, unless you are training for something specific or are a high-performing athlete. Factors such as personal goals, age, health conditions, and level of training should be considered when determining whether to opt for high or low-impact exercises.
While rest days are important for recovery, low-impact workouts can also be beneficial for the body. They aid in the recovery process from intense exercise and improve everyday functioning. Low-impact exercises can reduce stress on the joints, making them suitable for individuals managing chronic pain, arthritis, or other chronic illnesses. Additionally, low-impact workouts can help maintain or gradually build muscle strength, boost mood, and enhance mental well-being.
Low-impact workouts are suitable for a wide range of individuals, including those with joint issues or injuries, seniors, pregnant women and postpartum individuals (with consultation from a healthcare provider), beginners, individuals seeking weight loss, and those looking to reduce the risk of injury. People with autoimmune disease can also benefit from low-impact training as it helps manage symptoms caused by stress and inflammation.
There are various types of low-impact training exercises that cater to different fitness goals and preferences. Cardiovascular low-impact exercises elevate the heart rate and improve endurance while minimizing stress on the joints. Strength-focused low-impact exercises target muscle groups to enhance tone, stability, and overall body strength. Flexibility exercises improve joint mobility, reduce stiffness, and promote relaxation. These three types of exercises offer a versatile approach to fitness that can be tailored to individual needs.
Examples of low-impact cardio exercises include walking in place or on a treadmill, using a stationary bike, using an elliptical machine, or swimming. Low-impact strength training exercises can involve bodyweight squats, push-ups (using a wall, counter, or bench), seated leg lifts, and various loop band exercises. Low-impact core training exercises include wall/counter/bench mountain climbers, quadruped bird dogs, quadruped kickbacks, supine bridges, side lying clams, and side planks. Low-impact balance and flexibility exercises include standing knee drives, standing side leg lifts, stationary lunges, kickstand hip hinge, step-ups on low steps, and cat-cow pose.
To incorporate low-impact exercises into your routine, you can follow a circuit-style workout that targets the entire body. Begin with a warm-up consisting of moves that get your blood flowing, such as jumping jacks, brisk walking, or hip circles. Then, select one exercise from each group (cardio, strength training, core training, and balance/flexibility) and perform them back-to-back for two rounds. Finally, pick the second exercise from each group and complete two rounds.
It is important to remember that low-impact workouts can also be done through gentle yoga, which focuses on flexibility, balance, strength, and body awareness. As with any form of exercise, it is crucial to listen to your body, go at your own pace, and modify exercises as needed. The goal is to engage in a well-rounded workout that promotes cardiovascular health, strength, balance, and flexibility while minimizing impact on the joints. By incorporating low-impact exercises into your fitness routine, you can experience increased flexibility, refreshed energy, and a reduced risk of injuries.