Maintaining a high level of physical fitness is vital for good health. However, when many people think of fitness, they immediately think of high-impact exercise involving running and jumping. These activities can be great for some, but they are not enjoyable, accessible, or even safe for many of us.
If you have any kind of joint damage, are an older adult, are overweight, or have a health condition such as arthritis, you may be unable to participate in high-impact activities. Your healthcare provider may even have warned you to avoid high-impact exercise. Don’t worry, though–you can still keep fit and enjoy all the benefits that exercise brings.
Here are four of our favorite low-impact exercises that will keep you fit and protect your joints at the same time.
Swimming and Water Aerobics
When you swim, the water offers natural resistance that makes your muscles work harder. Swimming provides a true full-body workout, engaging multiple muscle groups and getting your heart and lungs working. But since the water supports your weight, it also puts little strain on your joints and comes with a minimal risk of injury as long as you swim using the proper form.
Swimming helps to tone the muscles and boost cardiovascular health, and promotes a greater range of motion which can improve your flexibility.
If you find the idea of swimming laps boring, why not join a water aerobics class to add variety and structure to your aquatic workouts?
Cycling and Stationary Biking
Whether you're cycling outdoors or using a stationary bike at home or at the gym, cycling is a fantastic form of low-impact exercise. It can also be a wonderful way to get out in nature, see new places, and spend time with your family or friends.
Cycling gives you a great cardiovascular workout that will boost the health of your heart and lungs. It is a great way to build muscle, targeting the calves, thighs, and glutes in particular.
Ensure that your bicycle is correctly sized (or that you have set up your stationary bike correctly.) Adjusting the seat and handlebars to fit your body will help to prevent strains and maximize efficiency. And, of course, always wear a helmet if you are cycling outdoors.
It might sound simple, but walking is a powerful form of exercise that is often overlooked. Unlike running, its more rigorous and high-impact cousin, walking is gentle on your joints but can still promote cardiovascular fitness, bone health, and muscle strength.
A brisk walk, particularly in nature or a green space, can also help to lower stress, reduce anxiety, and improve mental health.
Walking requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere. However, if you are going to be walking regularly, invest in a good pair of walking shoes that provide adequate support. If you are going on longer walks or hikes, you might also consider using walking poles to engage your upper body and further reduce the impact on your joints.
Believed to have originated thousands of years ago in India, yoga is now practiced across the world and is renowned for its spiritual and mental benefits. Yoga is also a fantastic form of low-impact exercise that improves strength, balance, and flexibility.
Practicing yoga regularly can also improve your range of motion, strengthen core muscles, and improve your balance. You don’t need any specific equipment apart from comfortable clothing and, ideally, a mat. However, using props such as yoga blocks or straps can help you to modify poses to your ability level.
The best way to learn yoga is to attend a beginner's class. However, if you are shy or if there is no studio near you, look for instructional yoga videos online. You can even find videos tailored specifically towards yoga for joint health.
What Type of Exercise Should You Choose?
Low-impact forms of exercise such as swimming, cycling, walking, and yoga help you to keep fit, improve your cardiovascular health, build strength, and enhance flexibility without putting unnecessary strain on your joints.
But which type of exercise should you choose? That’s up to you. It is important to take into account your body’s unique abilities and limitations, your fitness goals, and any existing health considerations. Of course, you can also choose more than one type of exercise and perform them in different workout sessions.
Most importantly, though, choose something that you enjoy. In fitness, consistency is key and the best form of exercise is the one that you will stick to.