Finding the Right Impact Exercise for your Body
I find cardio exercises boring. At least, that’s my weak excuse. It’s funny because all the games I played as a little girl involved some kind of cardio exercise. From tag, basketball, and biking, I did it all. I even have some scars to prove it.
I stepped further and further away from cardio exercises as I grew older. Working in an office environment didn’t help either. I spent more hours in a sitting position than in an upright one. I knew my mind and body needed exercise when I started to feel stiff and lower-back pain. I tried different workouts, most in the realm of high-impact, such as running or Zumba. I had trouble sticking to these due to joint pain.
Without planning for it, I experimented with low-impact exercises like yoga and daily walks. Even though I experienced some benefits to these exercises, I wasn’t seeing or feeling the results I wanted as fast as I did with high-impact workouts.
The American Heart Association recommends adults perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. However, there are some benefits and disadvantages of high and low-impact workouts on the body. I wanted to find a workout routine that I knew I could stick to for the long run, but also one where I wouldn’t experience joint pain.
I had to find a happy balance between the impact on my body and committing to it.
Pros and Cons of High-Impact Exercises
High-impact exercises help to strengthen the bones. Bones work together with our muscles and joints to provide us with support and movement. It’s also our armor as it protects our organs. Broken bones can even repair themselves and join back together to make them whole.
How does high-impact help the bones? It increases bone density, which is a really good thing! The dark side of the equation is that high-impact exercises can lead to injury to the joints, especially if you already suffer from joint problems or arthritis.
High-impact exercises also improve your stability, balance, and coordination. It gives you more control of your body and strengthens the heart and lungs. Nothing feels as good as walking up the stairs without running out of breath. However, high-impact exercises can be painful if done without adding some cross-training in the mix.
Cross-training refers to when a person mixes different exercises to target more muscle groups. Let’s say that your go-to high-impact exercise is running. We established that it helps your bone density, heart, lungs, and agility. However, if running is all you do, it can lead to overuse injuries. The trick is to cross-train by lifting weights, practicing yoga or Pilates, or even dancing to name a few examples.
Pros and Cons of Low-Impact Exercises
Low-impact exercises are less hard on the body, so they reduce the risk of injury. There’s also a higher chance of being consistent with the workouts when you don’t experience joint pain.
Just like high-impact exercises, low-impact improves balance and mobility in the body while helping it gain strength. One of my favorite go-to low-impact exercises is yoga. The beauty of yoga is that you can gain strength by holding the yoga poses for longer periods. I remember when I couldn’t hold my weight doing a side plank. I couldn’t help my smile when I finally did.
Low-impact exercises also have some limitations when it comes to heart health. We need intensity to get our heart rate up. A quick fix would be adding speed during your hiking trip or a yoga sequence to get the heart pumping. A disadvantage is you may have little to no time to exercise.
Lastly, low-impact exercises only help with bone density when adding weights during an exercise routine.
Best of Both High and Low-Impact
It takes time, practice, and experience to find what works best for your body. We also need to consider what it is we want to achieve. Is it flexibility and mobility? Is it endurance? Is it to tackle pain?
During the years, I tried different things, including playing sports, running, Zumba, yoga, Pilates, barre workouts, weight lifting, and hiking. All towards helping me manage lower back pain and gain additional health benefits.
There have been two types of exercises that I lean into that I believe are the best of both worlds when it comes to high and low-impact (in my humble opinion). Plus, I have found these to help me reduce stress levels and anxiety. What works for me is the practice of yoga and hiking.
I started to practice yoga about three years ago. Slowly, it helped me with my lower back pain to the point that it went away. It helped me gain strength and flexibility in my muscles too. There are instances when I mix meditation and yoga, so it’s great for the body and mind.
As yoga uses bodyweight to lift ourselves at a controlled pace, it helps with muscle tone while being gentle on the joints. Even if yoga isn’t your cup of tea, there are other low-impact workouts you can try, including elliptical, spinning, swimming, and walking. Actually, my hiking journey evolved from walking. The difference between the two is the terrain and elevation.
I live in Germany. I noticed hiking is a way of life in this country. Everyone does it no matter their age or the weather conditions. There are so many hiking trails within a short distance from homes as well that it makes it easy to do on a daily basis. I got lucky in this regard.
Due to the elevation, distance, speed, and terrain, hiking helps with endurance, it burns calories, and if you add any type of weight (such as a backpack), it’ll help strengthen the muscles in your body even more. It’ll feel like a high-impact workout while being gentle on your joints.
But that’s not all, as hiking is an outdoor adventure, you’ll reap the benefits since exposure to sunlight helps the body make vitamin D. This vitamin is essential as it affects your mood.
High and low-impact exercises provide some advantages and disadvantages to the body. It takes time, patience, and experience to experiment with different exercises, such as jump rope, running, burpees, yoga, hiking, or walking, to help us reach our health goals.
The importance is finding the right impact exercise for your body that will help you reach your health goals without suffering injuries along the way.