Friday, 4 May 2012

Low Impact Exercises for High Intensity Cardio

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Photo by o5com
I'm not much of a runner. That is I'm only the fastest one in this room because I happen to be alone at the moment. My ideal times are still a far way off, but I slowly creep towards them and my endurance is still in the works. Despite my shortcomings, I really like running. Until the last little while, I ran a few times a week; nothing to write home about, but it was the majority of my cardio. Last week I was told not to run for 6 weeks, and to slowly build it back up. So it got me thinking- how do you get some high intensity cardio going (and keep fitness goals) with a low impact workout?

Low impact exercises don't involve the jump and  impact that can be difficult for some people. Although you should check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, this type of exercise can be particularly useful for pregnant women, people with troubles in the lower extremities, joints or bones, or those who are very overweight. And there are lots of ways to make your low-impact workout high intensity...



1. Move more of your body.
It took me a while to notice this, but the moves we did in beginner's karate were, from what I remember, low impact. We moved through the stances, blocks, kicks, and punches, slowly for form and quickly for drills, katas, and sparring. It might not be right for everyone, but my point is that we didn't need to jump to get a workout. Just like swinging you arms as you walk, using the elliptical, or REALLY dancing vs swaying inconspicuously, you're using a good amount of your body. In using more of your body or making your movements bigger, it's easier to get your heart-rate up, so you don't necessarily need to bounce around to get in your training zone.
Good move: As I've mentioned before, I love dancing. Have a funky-crazy dance party where your butt must move a lot.

Photo by tom@hk | 湯米tomhk
2. Jump in a lake.
By that I really mean take to the water. Swimming is great cardio and gives your muscles a workout as well. Working out in the water is particularly useful for people with Arthritis and other joint problems because that floating feeling takes some of the stress off of your bones, muscles, and joints. If doing laps isn't your thing, why not try some water sports, mix in some treading water, or try out an aqua-aerobics class and get your cardio going without heading towards the deep end.
Good Move: Grab your kids, or friends, or strangers and play pool-tag


3.Take out the jump.
If you love your current class or video, but one move is giving you pain, you can modify it. For example a jumping jack might turn into a step-touch with arm abduction. It doesn't look as exciting, but you're still moving. I wouldn't recommend trying to modify a course that's based around high impact activities, but for a few moves it'll work. You might also want to check out courses that specifically say they are low-impact, or try activities that tend to avoid bouncing.
Good Move: Try out salsa dancing. The basic step is not too complicated and it's fun.

Photo by iangbl
4. Move quickly.  

The faster you move, the more of a challenge, and the easier it is to get into your training zone. Case in point: pretend you're late and walk to your destination- you'll notice the difference from a relaxed walk (and you'll save time :P). Walking is also free and wonderful start for those who've been away from physical activity for a while. If you have difficulty keeping up the pace, interval train. That is: walk at a regular pace for a set time, and at pace that is very quick for a short time, repeat until the workout is done. With practice, the speed walking interval will increase and eventually take over the workout.
Good Move: Take your normal fitness activity and pick up the pace. Give yourself a distance or time goal if you need extra motivation.

5.Add resistance.
If you want to increase the intensity of a workout with very little modification to the movements, add some resistance- you'll feel the difference. This could be as simple as taking a hill versus walking flat or increasing the resistance on a cardio machine. A great example of this is in a class is Step aerobics where the moves shy away from a hard landing, but you've got to lift yourself onto that step. *There's debate over whether walking with weights provides more benefits than trouble, so do use your judgment when deciding how to increase the intensity.
Good move: Take the stairs

6. Keep your feet off the floor. 
The principle's pretty simple: if your feet stay off the floor, there's no impact. So try out a spinning class, stationary bike, or elliptical. The rowing machine, or a boat may also be a new friend.
Good Move: Like I mentioned in my free to cheap spring physical activity guide, try out a Bixi and you'll get to where you're going while exercising.

7. Remember your other parts.
Cardiovascular fitness is only one piece of the fitness puzzle. Make sure that you do a proper cooldown when you are finished and stretch while you are still warm to help with flexibility. Weights are often overlooked, but a properly designed resistance program can improve bone density as well as muscle tone, so don't forget to add it in.
Good Move: Ask a trainer to help you set up a program and show you how to do it properly. Specify your needs, limitations, preferences, and goals to get something good for YOU.
Photo by Teecycle Tim

These are just a few possibilities that might be right for some and not for others. Remember that a doctor or physio can give you many other ideas for getting your physical activity despite an injury or condition. It's important to discuss their recommendations with your trainer or instructor; they will be able to offer suggestions for appropriate exercises or modifications to existing ones and help you in your quest for absolute awesomeness.  

Above all, listen to your body: know the difference between "the burn" and pain, feel comfortable with what you are doing, and know when to stop an activity.  Remember, your exercise is about you, your body, and making both feel great.


Do you have a favourite low impact activity? Let us know. Andd if you like what you read, don't forget to share, subscribe, or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.
Live well, Charlotte


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