Living Healthier through Low-Impact Exercise

By Haskins, Julia | The Nation's Health, September 2018 | Go to article overview

Living Healthier through Low-Impact Exercise


Haskins, Julia, The Nation's Health


When you picture exercise, what comes to mind? Is it someone running a marathon? Maybe they're doing jumping jacks. Those are both great forms of exercise. But if those exercises aren't quite right for you, don't sweat it--literally. High-impact workouts aren't the only way to be physically active.

Low-impact exercise offers many of the same health benefits as more physically demanding workouts, and may even be better for you in some cases.

There are also many reasons why people may not be able to take on high-impact exercise. If you're looking for a workout that's effective but manageable for daily activity, give low-impact exercise a try.

Exercise is measured by relative intensity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines relative intensity as the amount of effort needed to carry out an activity, which affects your heart rate and breathing. One way to understand relative intensity is using the talk test. If you're able to talk with relative ease while exercising, you're probably doing a form of low-impact exercise, such as walking or biking at a brisk pace, water aerobics or light gardening. It's harder to chat when you're doing a high-impact activity such as running or jumping rope.

"Low-impact exercise is generally defined as low load or low weight-bearing," says Jacque Crockford, MS, CSCS, a certified personal trainer and exercise physiology content manager at the American Council on Exercise. "It excludes exercise like running and jumping, which place additional pressure on joints during motion."

Low-impact exercise can be low-, moderate--or high-intensity. CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week as well as muscle-strengthening, flexibility and balance exercises.

Don't let the name fool you--low-impact exercise can be every bit as beneficial as high-impact exercise. Regular, moderate-intensity exercise can help you reach important health goals such as maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers as well as strengthening bones and muscles, according to CDC. Keeping up an exercise regimen can also have a positive impact on your mental health and lift your mood.

Not only does low-impact exercise come with the benefits of improved strength, lower blood pressure and reduced stress, but such a workout also cuts down on the risk of musculoskeletal injury, Crockford adds.

That's what makes low-impact exercise a great option for virtually everyone. Some people physically can't do a high-impact workout that involves a lot of running or jumping, for example. …

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