Taking the Path Less Strenuous
The benefits of low impact exercise
Regular daily exercise has been strongly recommended by all health care providers to help prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke along with a lengthy list of chronic diseases and conditions. You can also anticipate that a lifetime of consistent exercise helps maintain overall health and will add years to your life expectancy.
However, there are different levels of exercise or impact – from simple stretching (low) to all-out hard core training (high) for an upcoming Iron Man competition.
Less aggressive low-impact exercise may be more worthwhile for certain populations dealing with such issues as being chronically ill, recovering from an injury or surgical procedure, or being obese or a senior citizen. That’s where low-impact exercise comes into the health picture.
The bone and joint connection
“Bone is a living tissue and responds to stress,” explains Dr. W. Brandt Bede, Puget Sound Orthopaedics board certified orthopedist specializing in sports medicine. He believes low-impact exercise such as “walking is an excellent exercise to promote lower extremity bone strength and density and it treats osteoporosis.”
Walking also is a low-impact exercise that won’t jar your joints. Additionally, it slows the development of arthritis and the loss of bone mass due to osteoporosis. People with certain knee, hip and back problems or those recovering from other physical injuries should discuss this form of exercise with their doctor prior to beginning a walking regimen.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic also emphasize that, “exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints,” but keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones.
Pro and con views
The medical writers at Verywell Fit suggest that adding some higher impact exercise to your workout routine will “improve bone density, burn more calories, enhance balance and coordination, and strengthen the heart and lungs.” However, they warn overexertion increases the risk of orthopedic injury including stress fractures and tendon strains.
Women’s Health & Fitness stresses that “utilizing slower, controlled movements subject your joints to less stress and chance of injury, while still providing a host of positive body composition benefits.” They also promote exercising and training in water as a safe way to restore health after injury.
Nutritionist, trainer and online coach Brooke Turner states that, “You also remove the risk of stress on muscles and joints that often results in muscle soreness stress fractures and injury native to high impact activity.”
Before you start any exercise program
Speak with your doctor about which level and type of exercise is best suited for your specific level of fitness and goals.
Low impact exercises
Here are a few suggestions from various sources about low-impact exercises that result in a less vigorous but worthwhile workout: walking/power walking/walking with weights, using elliptical/Stairmaster equipment, cycling, rowing/kayaking, tai chi, hiking, yoga, pilates, water aerobics/swimming, snowshoeing, step aerobics, ballroom dancing, cross-country skiing, golf, Zumba, rollerblading, bowling, playing Frisbee, mowing the lawn, washing the car, and cleaning your house!
Links to low impact exercise websites
– Mayo Clinic
– Verywell Fit
– Women’s Health & Fitness
By Holly Harmon for Puget Sound Orthopaedics