Investing time to do activities or sports that you enjoy is key to healthy aging and an active lifestyle. Being physically active is often a good way to prevent and manage musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries as well as helping maintain strength and mobility. Varying your routine between high- and low-impact activities is a great way to modify your workouts and challenge the body. We’ve outlined some great suggestions for both so you can get up and get moving!
High-impact exercise is typically described as an (often aerobic) activity where both feet leave the ground at the same time. Often, high-impact activities may include exercise classes which involve jumping, leaping, or jogging in place. Doing high-impact exercise can put you at greater risk of injury if your body is not prepared, especially if you’re just starting out. Be cautious and adapt to a lower impact version of the activity if in doubt. Otherwise, make sure you have warmed-up before starting high-impact exercises.
Good examples of high-impact exercises are:
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping rope
- Running or jogging on outdoors or on a treadmill
- Performing plyometric exercises
High-impact exercises tend to be more intense and expend more energy, so it’s important that if you’re doing high-impact exercises that you’re well-prepared. For some, high-impact exercises are not appropriate: they may increase the risk of injury, commonly to the ankles, knees, hips, and even the back. That being said, high-impact exercises can have a lot of great benefits too2:
- Improves bone density
- Increases an individual’s heart rate more quickly, thereby burning more calories
- Improves a person’s stability, balance, and coordination
- Strengthens the heart and lungs
Low-impact exercise tends to be less jarring on the body and joints, and less intense overall. Keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times also reduces your risk of musculoskeletal injury. Some examples include:
- Working out on an elliptical machine
- Low-impact aerobics
- Using a rowing machine
- Home exercise
- Nordic walking
It’s important to realize that low impact doesn’t mean low intensity (unless purposely designed to be so) because you can still get an intense workout keeping both feet on the ground. Low-impact exercises are great for beginners, people with arthritis or osteoporosis, older adults, individuals who are obese, pregnant women, and people with bone, joint, or connective tissue injuries.
Whichever form of physical activity you choose, make sure you do it safely. Feel free to talk to Dr. Bekic if you have any questions.
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