Which is better – high impact or low impact exercises? Or no impact exercises? This is a question that is often asked. Each has its benefits and depending on your fitness level, each comes with its set of benefits. Impact here refers to overall intensity and calorie burn and applies to cardio workout than strength training or body toning.
An exercise is considered to be of low impact when at least one of your feet is in contact with the ground as in climbing stairs, walking, hiking and rollerblading, and even a number of step aerobics and cardio-dance workouts. Low impact workouts are less intense and jarring and there is no pounding or force on the lower body joints. It is true that keeping one foot on the ground reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
Such routines are good for beginners, obese or older people, pregnant women and those with osteoporosis or have bone, joint or connective tissue injury. Really, anyone can do low impact exercises, but fitter people will find they need to work out for a longer time to achieve their target heart rate
Exercises that make both feet leave the ground at the same time – as in running, jumping rope, kickboxing, some step aerobic exercises and cardio dancing that involve leaps – are considered to be high impact. These are more intense and burn calories faster, but are tougher on the spine, and the ankle, knee and hip joints.
High impact exercise routines are for people with a good baseline of fitness and no risk of arthritis or musculoskeletal problems. When you are running, the force on your body is over twice that when you are walking. So, someone weighing 100 pounds will land on each foot with 200 pounds of pressure on the hip, knee, and ankle joints. And unless you are fit and used to regular and consistent exercising, you run the risk of injury and overuse of the joints in your lower body.
No, no, no! This does not mean not working out!
‘No’ impact exercises ensure that both your feet are on the ground or when the force on your joints is minimal to zero. Swimming, cycling, rowing, aqua-aerobics, and working out on the elliptical machine are considered no impact exercises. These also include mat-based or seated exercise routines as in yoga or Pilates, where there is no impact on the lower body joints.
To exercise does not necessarily mean running and jumping or jogging. Just because you aren’t sprinting or leaping about, it does not mean that you can’t have a workout routine that is fun and good for you too.
Anyone can opt for no-impact exercises – they are definitely gentler on the joints. Pilates and yoga strengthen your core, improve your flexibility and are great for pain relief and physical rehabilitation. Yoga goes a step further with the added spiritual dimension. Sign up for an aqua-zumba class and have some fun. Hop on to an elliptical machine or exer-cycle and give your body a workout!
Every exercise routine has its benefits. Fitness gurus recommend a combination of these exercises in a single workout, or cross-training by alternating them on different days of the week, so you get the best of all of them.
Check with your doctor and, depending on your fitness and agility – and of course, personal preference – choose the workout that works best for you.
After all, the point is to workout, isn’t it?