You don’t have to go out each day and pound the pavement, beating up your knees, hips and back just to get in a workout. There are plenty of more gentle choices that can get your heart pounding and help you stay in shape. Here are some of the best low-impact exercises:
- Swimming – Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for those suffering from joint issues and arthritis. It is gentle on your body and great for those stomach and shoulder muscles. Plus, it helps improve lung capacity. Start small with just 20-30 minutes and work your way up. Even using a kickboard and working just your leg muscles can have a positive impact.
- Water Aerobics – Some people just don’t like the monotony of swimming laps back and forth in the pool and prefer to be more social. Water aerobics is a great solution. When you become “unweighted” in the water, you actually gain mobility and stretching and strengthening exercises are less painful. Water aerobics usually includes bicep curls, arm circles and tricep kickbacks, which all help to build strength in your lower back and neck and reduce back pain.
- Spinning – Stationary bicycles have been around for years, but newer, more comfortable machines and spin classes have changed this low-impact exercise dramatically. Whether you prefer an at-home workout or a social experience at a gym, spinning can be a great way to stay in shape. It’s easy on your knees and ankles and if you have an upper body injury, you can still get some much-needed exercise.
- Zumba – Besides being fun to say, Zumba classes are a great low-impact choice of exercise. Zumba is a latin-inspired cardio dance class. Because it’s so fun, you often don’t even realize how hard your body is working! There are plenty of group classes that meet in community centers and even fire stations. Be sure to tell the instructor if it’s your first class, so he or she can help you use the proper form and technique. If Zumba is too fast, and you love to dance, try ballroom dancing!
- Walking – it’s not very exciting, but it is still one of the best low-impact exercises there is. It’s free, you can do it just about anywhere and it literally engages just about every muscle in the body. While you can start with leisurely strolls, your goal should be to get your heart pumping. You can alternate a fast pace for a minute, with a slower pace for two minutes. Gradually increase both giving your body a chance to recover. Make small lifestyle changes to encourage more walking, such as parking farthest away from the store or choosing the stairs instead of the elevator.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to get exercise. There are lots of low-impact exercise choices that can benefit your health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 30 minutes a day of exercise to maintain optimum health. It should include a combination of aerobic activity and strength training. So, get out there, and get moving!