Low impact does NOT mean low intensity!

2013August01_Cardio_AIf you think about low impact exercises, do you imagine a full-on cardio workout? Or do you imagine a more moderate approach which doesn’t get your heart pumping quite as much? There’s a common misconception that low impact equals low intensity, but there’s no reason why you cannot incorporate low impact exercises in high intensity workouts and high intensity interval training (HIIT). The old adage of ‘no pain, no gain’ doesn’t really follow through. Not only can low impact fitness offer a great way to exercise but it can also deliver an intense workout too.

What is low impact?

People often talk about aqua aerobics and swimming when they refer to low impact exercise. However, in many ways this could be classed as no impact or certainly at the lower end of low impact training. In a nutshell, low impact defines any exercise where one foot is touching the ground at any one time. This includes a huge variety of activities from Nordic walking to dancing and Pilates.

Making low impact intense!

You can add extra challenge to these activities by mixing up your routines with cross training, through speed and the amount of effort and time you put into each exercise. Interval training and upper body movements are another way to give a low-impact exercise some high-energy intensity. Low does not mean slow and it certainly does not mean that your fitness cannot progress as you change the difficulty level and expectation.

What’s wrong with high impact?

The advantages of high impact exercises are that they tend to get your heart rate to the cardio level you want to be at more quickly and therefore you can burn calories more quickly and often faster. High impact fitness also helps build and strengthen bone density and mass which is a real plus point as you age. However, it can also cause undue stress on the connective tissue and joints, causing pain and putting you at greater risk of injury.

Who is low impact exercise for?

Actually, everybody. It’s always great to include some element of low impact or even no impact exercises into your workout. If you fall into a certain category, then low impact might be the best and safest way for you to keep fit, for example:

  • Injured – If you already have a joint issue or have suffered a sprain or strain then low impact exercise can ease the pressure while you recover. It is a way or rehabilitating without losing a foothold on your fitness regime.

  • Obese – The faster you go the greater the impact in your body and if you add in weight to this it is no surprise that the heavier you are the greater the force and the bigger the impact on your body too. If you’re overweight, your body might benefit from a lesser force.

  • Elderly – As you get older you need to be kinder to your body and what you don’t want to do is give it a real pounding. All ages benefit from exercise and functional training that allows for greater mobility and range of movement can really impact the quality of your life in a positive way. To achieve this though there’s no reason to beat your body up with high impact exercises.

  • Beginners – If you’re new to fitness you need to allow time for your body to adjust to exercise and the stress that this brings. High impact fitness might feel like a little too much too soon. Build up your body’s ability to deal with not just the force of your movements but to learn how to move aerobically without too much risk of injury. If you’re a fitness novice, you might not be flexible and strong enough to jump straight into high impact either.

  • Exercises – If you exercise a lot then there’s a strong argument for making sure that at least some of your workouts include less hard hitting exercises. The more you do the more you need low impact to be part of your fitness strategy.

Do you know how to use low impact to reach your fitness goals? Could you add in just the right amount of intensity and move progressively to high impact in the right way at the right time? Get the lowdown from us on how low impact can impact all fitness levels, and more specifically, you.

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