Much has been touted about "low impact aerobic" exercise, but what is it? How is it done? And why would someone want be interested in low-impact aerobics? Low-impact aerobics are beneficial for just about everyone, and can really benefit those who cannot perform workouts that are physically stressful on the body, including pregnant women, the elderly, or those suffering from an injury or specific ailment. Read more to find out about this type of exercise.
What is Low-Impact Aerobics?
Aerobics is defined as "with oxygen" by the Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science and Medicine. It defines any activity that uses the oxygen in the body's metabolic system. Aerobic activity is done at a relatively low intensity for an extended period of time, and is usually done to build endurance and for various health benefits.
Low-impact aerobics are any type of aerobic activity that is gentle on the joints (see the list below). The main difference between low-impact and high-impact aerobics is the speed and intensity. To increase the intensity of the high-impact workout, jumping or kicking movements are added and often both feet are off the floor at the same time. However, with low-impact aerobics, one foot always remains on the ground and the intensity is increased with the use of exaggerated arm movements, wrist or ankle weights or weighted vests.
Unlike weight training or other anaerobic activity, aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups, continuous movements and the muscle contractions differ in duration and intensity. For example, cross country skiing is an aerobic activity, while weight lifting is anaerobic. Both are good for different parts of the body, and indeed aerobic and anaerobic exercise work hand-in-hand for improved overall health.
Benefits of Low-Impact Aerobics
Probably the most well-known benefit of low-impact aerobics is weight loss. Due to the way in which aerobic activity uses the body's stored fuel, low-impact aerobic exercise keeps body weight down by using the fat stores of the body to fuel the body's systems during and after the exercise.
Another benefit of low-impact aerobics is improved cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise creates new blood vessels for improved circulation as well as improving the condition of the heart, meaning that the body doesn't have to work as hard to pump blood through all the blood vessels. Those who are in better cardiovascular health typically have lower blood pressure and lower resting heart rates than those who aren't.
Reduced stress is another benefit of low impact aerobic exercise. With jobs, families, school and everything else that people have going on it their lives, stress is a problem for everyone. The stress reduction from low-impact aerobics is something that everyone can use, and isn't as time consuming or physically demanding as other forms of workout.
Nearly everyone benefits from low-impact aerobic exercise, but in particular those with high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure can greatly improve their health with low-impact aerobic exercise. Low-impact aerobics can help them build-up their endurance and cardiovascular health if they can't handle high-impact exercises.
Types of Low Impact Aerobics
There are many different types of low-impact aerobics one can perform for exercise:
- Stationary cycling
- Walking or hiking
- Elliptical training
- Dancing such as ballet or tap dancing
In addition, there are many different classes widely available such as step aerobics, slide aerobics, interval circuits or aerobic yoga. Just remember, if it's easy on the joints, it's low impact.
Exercise is a good idea for nearly everyone, but even low-impact aerobics need to be performed with certain precautionary measures.
- Before starting any exercise program, it's always a good idea to get it cleared by a doctor first. Certain groups of people, such as the elderly or pregnant women need to take extra precautions when exercising and a doctor can provide the guidance to keep the activity safe.
- Always keep some water close by and be sure to stay hydrated. Dehydration can happen very quickly and cause a host of health problems, from headache, nausea and even death, so it's important to drink plenty of water.
- Listen to the body's cues. The human body is a remarkable machine and any warning signs like dizziness, disorientation, shortness of breath or pain should be heeded immediately. The rule of thumb is if a person can't speak in full sentences, it's time to stop.
- Always be sure to warm up and cool down. Failure to do so can result in injury or blood pooling which can lead to fainting. Stretching is also important as it reduces soreness and increased flexibility helps reduce the risk of injury.
Low-impact aerobics is great for nearly everyone and can be a lot of fun. Add some variety to your low-impact workouts to keep the body guessing and follow safety precautions. Keep it interesting and it won't even feel like a workout, and a workout that doesn't feel like one is the best kind there is.