Does a low-impact workout deliver real benefits?
Low-impact exercise is healthy exercise and enjoyable when a harder workout is not right for you. But can low-impact exercise help you burn calories and lose weight? Absolutely, says Paige Waehner, a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise.
If you're trying to lose weight, raising your heart rate helps burn calories. Exercise also strengthens your bones and can help you feel better and have more energy, says Waehner. However, for some people, high-impact exercise just isn't an option. Here are some reasons you may need to avoid high-impact exercise:
If you've ever jumped rope for the first time in years, you probably felt your heart beating very fast. But you don't have to jump around to get a good workout, says Waehner. Low-impact exercise simply means one foot is always in contact with the ground. It can raise your heart rate, but you may have to work a little harder.
If you can't or don't want to do high-impact exercises, there are some excellent alternatives. Here are a few low-impact exercises that can help you get the most out of your workouts.
Walking is by far the most popular low-impact exercise. To get your heart rate up, here are some things to try.
Walking up stairs – either real stairs or a moving staircase at the gym – can be a strong workout. It will raise your heart rate, but beginners should be careful. Just add a few minutes to your usual workout. You won't have to do too much or go too fast to get your heart beating.
Hiking can be another good low-impact activity. Hiking works best when you're walking up and down hills, using muscles in the lower body. This can be just what you want for a healthy workout. Add a backpack, and you're burning even more calories.
Step aerobics is a great low-impact exercise that involves stepping onto a raised platform. This can get your heart rate up without doing any jumping. Using the arms can help as well. You can also try group fitness classes or videos that may offer other low-impact options.
Other low-impact activities that can give you a good workout include cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing or rowing. Any of these activities can be good if you work hard. You may also want to cross-train with higher-impact activities. This can keep your body moving in different ways.
The key to effective low-impact exercise is to work a little harder. Use your whole body in each exercise routine. Try some of these ideas for making your workouts more active:
Many exercises are easy on the back and good for the heart, says Peter F. Ullrich Jr., M.D. An orthopedist, Dr. Ullrich works with people who have back and spine problems and he recommends:
Any low-impact exercise you choose should be active enough to increase your heart rate by an age-appropriate amount. Raising the heart rate for at least 20 minutes helps make your heart stronger. It also helps you burn fat and stay fit.
Now that you have some ideas for low-impact exercise, go out and try some! Low-impact exercise is a healthy way to get stronger and feel better.
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