4 low impact workouts to do at the gym
When it comes to exercise, we’re often told that ‘pain equals gain’ – right? But what if, somewhere along the line, that pain morphs into injury?
Many gym-goers are tempted by the ‘burn’ and rapid results promised by high impact workouts, including running, jumping, skipping and plyometrics (i.e. squat jumps). However, if you are new to exercise, are over the age of 65, are overweight, are pre or post-natal, or if you suffer from joint, bone or muscular pain, the risk of injury from these exercises is high. Even if you are an experienced exerciser, daily high impact workouts can result in repetitive stress injuries on your joints.
Low impact exercises avoid stress on your joints by either keeping one foot on the ground at all times, or having your body weight supported. Low impact workouts can be just as effective as high impact training for boosting your fitness, strength and endurance, as well as being safer and more sustainable.
In addition to being suitable for most people, the benefits of low impact exercise include:
- Promotes precision, control, flexibility and stability: Slow-paced exercise allows you to focus on your technique, posture, stability, and engaging the correct muscle groups. These skills will help you to safely perform any degree of exercise, including high impact exercise, in the long term.
- Has low recovery requirements: You can practice low-impact exercise every day (unless instructed otherwise), and/or you can practice it in-between days of high-impact exercise, to rest your muscles and joints.
- Supports cardiovascular fitness and muscle toning: You can still bring your heart rate up to beyond 75% max, and train to ‘muscle failure’ (i.e. the point where you just can’t do another rep!) with low impact exercise.
- Improves your metabolic health: Any form of exercise, including low-impact options, will help to improve your blood pressure, blood sugar control, blood circulation and body weight.
- Improves bone and joint health: Low impact exercise that involves weight bearing (i.e. walking) can protect and promote bone density. All forms of low impact exercise encourage blood circulation to inflamed joints, delivering nutrients that keep cartilage healthy. Furthermore, safe exercise that supports weight loss and muscle strength will also help to reduce the stress load on joints (1,2).
- Helps you get a better night sleep: Studies show that exercise significantly improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia (3).
We have listed 4 low-impact, cardiovascular workouts that you can perform at your local Goodlife club, to help boost your fitness, improve your strength, support your recovery from high impact exercise, and protect you against injury.
1. Brisk walking
Walking is one of the best and most accessible forms of low-impact exercise for beginners, and for those prone to injury. Walk at a pace that is comfortable – but not ‘too comfortable’! – if it is safe to do so, increase your speed or incline to the point where you feel your heart rate going up, and slight breathlessness. If you suffer from arthritis, research suggests that walking on a treadmill rather than outdoors, and increasing the incline by 2-3% rather than increasing the speed, may reduce joint stress (2).
2. Light - moderate weight lifting and body weight exercises
Strength exercises are excellent for protecting your muscle mass, encouraging stability, and boosting your metabolic rate. To avoid stress on your joints, and to get more of a ‘cardio’ workout, it is preferable to use light-moderate weights, or your body weight only, and perform higher numbers of repetitions (rather than lifting heavy weights for less repetitions). Group fitness classes such as Body Pump are a good option, otherwise you can ask your Goodlife trainer to prepare a tailored program for you.
3. Stationary cardio machines – Bike, Rowing and Elliptical
You don’t need to run in order to feel that cardio ‘burn’! Both the rower and the elliptical machine allow you to work your upper and lower body, whilst supporting your entire body weight. Try peddling both forwards and backwards on the elliptical machine, to engage a broader range of muscles. If you prefer a group fitness setting, why not try a spin class? Keep in mind that these machines, whilst ‘low impact’, can still be demanding on your joints due to repetition of motion (i.e. the spinning of your legs on a bike). So, make sure you check with your GP or physio beforehand if you have or are recovering from an injury.
4. Boxing and kickboxing Boxing is popular among celebrities and models, and for good reason (how toned and terrific did Hilary Swank look in Million Dollar Baby!?). It is one of the only ‘whole body’ workouts that engages most major muscle groups in your body, increases your heart rate, AND is low impact – when you stick to punching and kicking a bag! Technique is important when boxing to prevent injury, so we recommend attending a Goodlife Boxing or Combat class, or practicing with your Goodlife trainer.
There are many more low-impact classes to explore at Goodlife, including Pilates, Yoga, Body Balance, Zumba and more!