A rose by any other name is still a rose. Apply that saying to exercise, and you’re on the right track to understanding it. Low-impact aerobics exercise, for example, has a number of names. But no matter what you call it–soft, low-intensity, low-level, fluid, or no-bounce–the bottom line is still exercise.
Regardless of whether you are riding your bike, swimming laps in a pool, walking 10 blocks, or rowing your boat down the river, the end result will be good news for your heart and lungs. Any prolonged exercise that stimulates the heart and lungs to increase the amount of oxygen intake is aerobic. And a strong cardiovascular system is a good indicator of overall fitness, says Greg Hennessey from the EHealthInstitute.
Not All Exercise Is Equal
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that all aerobic exercise is created equal. Some types have a higher level of impact on your body than others. That’s where the contraversy started. In the past, exercise leaders believed that all exercise had to have a high level of physical impact to be worthwhile. Not only that, they thought that it was important to push your body through an exercise until it hurt. The result wasn’t too surprising. Injuries were common and people dropped out. One study indicated that 82 percent of injuries from exercise occurred below the knee and became aggravated by repetitive jumping and high-impact movements.
That’s when low-impact aerobic exercise arrived on the scene. It provided the same amount of aerobic conditioning as its high-impact counterpart, yet was much gentler to the points and muscles.
Anytime your foot hits the ground when you’re running, that’s impact. If you run long distances, your legs act like sponges to absorb the impact. Done often and hard enough, stress points can form, eventually causing a hairline crack in the bone of your lower legs. Stress fractures are common with high-impact exercise. Treatment is simple: Put an end to the high intensity pounding and the bones wil gradually heal. Constant impact can also result in sprains and strains to both muscles and bones of the knee and lower leg.
High-impact or traditional aerobic dance has had similar problems. Some studies show that as many as 43 percent of aerobic dance students were injured after participating in high-impact exercise.
The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to be a high wire act. In fact, researchers now recognize that lower-intensity exercise can be just as aerobically effective, safe, and fun. The old theory of “no pain, no gain” is as outdated as bell-bottom trousers. The truth is that exercising through pain doesn’t have any advantage.
Low-impact means decreasing the amount of pounding on hard surfaces that the lower body must endure during exercise. Activities such as cycling, swimming, and rowing have virtually no impact because the lower body never pounds the pavement. Exercises such as low-impact dance, walking, and stair climbing have some impact, but not enough to cause injuries.
All achieve the same cardiovascular benefits as running, jogging, or other high-impact exercises, but use a wide range of upperbody movements instead to reach that goal. Both swimming and rowing use the arms extensively to raise the heart rate into the target zone. Bike riding uses the continuous motion of hte lower leg for extended durations to achieve its aerobic status.
Dance exercise is known for marches, low kicks, side-to-side movements, and lunges instead of hopping, jumping, and jogging during workout. One foot maintains contact with the floor at all times. Simply by raising the arms overhead in broad, circular motions, the intensity can be increased. Such controlled, deliberate arm movements can actually increase the cardiovascular load by 20 percent without injury to the legs.
Something for Everyone
Interest in low-level aerobics doesn’t seem likely to wane in a few years, as it did with their high-impact predecessors. One reason may lie in the fact that activities like cycling, swimming, walking, and rowing, once considered just fun, are now thought of for aerobic workouts. They work, too, for people of all ages.
Soft aerobic exercise is an option for all sort of people, especially those who find other exercise boring, too strenuous, or inconvenient. When time is limited, it’s just as easy to lace up some comfortable shoes and walk at a moderate pace down the street. Or how about a 30-minute bike ride after school” Even enrolling in a one-hour co-ed dance exercise class can be a great way to meet people, get in shape, and have fun.
Don’t worry about how you look, what your physical limitations might be, or what your workout clothes look like. Regardless of whether you are overweight, out of shape, have a back problem, or have a family history of high blood pressure, most likely there is a low-impact exercise that can work for you.