Read these 10 Low Impact Exercises Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Balance tips and hundreds of other topics.
Walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that can ease you into a higher level of fitness and health. Walking can reduce your risk of a heart attack by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Moreover, a regular walking program can help you manage your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, walking regularly can improve your body's ability to process sugar, lower your blood sugar, reduce your risk of heart disease and help you live longer. Walking also is a great weight management tool; middle-aged women who walk more than 10,000 steps a day have lower levels of body fat than do women who are less active. Walking will also help you stay strong and active as you age, or just when you're not feeling in top form. A brisk walk is also a good remedy for stress and feeling blue. Remember to maintain good form while talking – keep your body in alignment, tighten your core muscles, and have all of your movement originate in your core. Also, use a pedometer to measure your distance. When walking for fitness, you will get a more effective workout, and you will optimize all the physical and mental benefits of your workout.
A great option for people who like water, but dislike doing laps, and who like class settings, but cannot withstand the high-impact aerobic classes. Water aerobics adds the fluid resistance of water to movements you would perform in daily activities, such as walking, or in on-land athletic training, such as jumping. It is, therefore, functional training that is very useful for building lower body strength. Enroll in a class, or perform some basic moves on your own: start in water that comes to about the bottom of your ribcage, and jog around the pool, incorporating kicks, jumping jacks, strides and knee lifts. Once you are warmed up, gently stretch your leg, hip and lower back muscles. Then, again job around the pool and perform your jumps and strides more quickly, exaggerating the movements. To mix things up a bit, try a tuck jump: from a standing position with your knees and ankles together, pull your knees to you chest. Or, perform a frog jump: begin with your toes, knees and thighs slightly turned out. Bend your arms in a diamond shape, with your fists close to your chest. Push your arms down to your hips while lifting your legs up and into a diamond shape. Then, return to the starting position.
Originally a mode of travel in snowy climates, cross-country skiing provides a total body workout without stressing your joints. You can make your workout as easy or as intense as you want, so anyone can do it. In addition to providing a cardiovascular exercise without putting too much pressure on your joints, cross-country skiing (on trails or on a machine that simulates the motion) strengthens hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus muscles and triceps. Cross-country skiing also helps improve your balance, coordination and agility.
Getting back into athletic activities after an injury – or getting into them at all – requires a build-up of strength and stability. You could really hurt yourself if you just jumped immediately into a tennis match or soccer game. Sports such as tennis, handball, basketball, football and soccer require that you twist and turn, and suddenly start and stop — abrupt movements that can damage knees and ankles that have not been properly trained. To build your joint strength and stability and meet your cardiovascular fitness goals, start with low impact exercises, such as walking, swimming or water aerobics, bicycling, using a rowing machine, going cross-country skiing or using a cross-country ski-machine, a stair climber or an elliptical machine. You can also consider balance tools like a pro fitter trainer, which can be used by beginning or intermediate balance enthusiasts and is excellent in training for knee and ankle strength and core stability.
Think about it: one of childhood's greatest challenges is learning to ride a bike, and one of its greatest achievements is taking off the training wheels. Balance is critical to cycling, as you must maintain your center of gravity, and adjust to changes in your body's position relative to the bike and your center of gravity. Balance on a bike does become second nature – hence, the adage about how one never forgets how to ride. Nevertheless, balance should not be a forgotten component of cycling, as improving your balance and building your core strength can help you get even more out of your rides. By building a strong core, you are able to better control the energy going into your legs and your leg motion, making your riding more thoughtful and productive. Also, building a strong core and developing your balance will help you be more reactive and nimble when confronted with more challenging hills, slippery spots, and faster speeds, helping you stay in control and avoid injury.
Balance and stability training helps the muscles around your knees work together more effectively to brace and support your knees. Once you have developed this foundation of stability, you can work on strengthening the muscles around your joints to help protect the joints from injury. Your quadriceps and hamstrings work together to support your knees, so leg lifts, squats, and similar functional strength straining exercises that involve your lower body are a good way to protect your knees.
Stair climbing machines, elliptical machines, and stationary cycles are all pieces of gym equipment that will enable you to develop your cardiovascular system and functional strength. As you do your workout, be sure to keep your core muscles tight, and use those muscles to direct energy to your limbs.
Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact workout, but it, too, requires a level of fitness to do it safely and effectively. Many swimmers suffer from shoulder injuries because they rely too heavily on their arms to propel them forward. To get the most benefits from your swim workout, it is important to develop a strong core, and to use that as your center of balance and power so that your arms and legs can work efficiently, and with a lower risk of injury. Once you have achieved the flexibility, core strength and stability and range of motion that allows you to use your body most effectively, you will be able to swim longer and with get better, total-body results.
Balance is crucial for inline skating: not only does it help you keep you on your feet; it helps you skate faster, farther and with less effort. Good balance is also the foundation to the advanced tricks of ice skaters and rollerbladers. Skating is a complex movement that challenges many muscles and joints: hockey, one of skating's most popular versions, really illustrates the range of movements that skating can involve: repetitive stopping and starting (often sudden), the need for explosive movements as well as sustained speed, tight turns, backward skating, crossovers, and lateral movement all require you to know where your body is, and how to move it to where it needs to be. Enter balance and core strength training: being able to stay upright is very important, and making sure that you can move your limbs and direct your energy from a strong center will make you a more powerful, controlled skater – whether on the ice, or on a trail.
Rowing is a fun, active, low-impact sport that exercises most of the major muscle groups. It improves overall body conditioning, helps reduce blood pressure and aids in weight loss. Many find its rhythmic motion provides an outlet to relieve stress, also. Core strength is the basis for good rowing. Your core muscles provide a work center for your body, transfer power from the lower body to the upper body and to the oar's blade. Therefore, the stronger your core, the more effective your transfer of power. You'll notice that when you're rowing – either in a skull or on an ergometer, you will slouch when you get fatigued. As you tire, your form suffers. While this is not entirely avoidable, having a strong core helps you maintain your form even as lose your energy. Similarly, strong abdominal and back muscles will help protect against lower back pain, strain and injury.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|