As popular as plyometrics are — especially for home workouts — low-impact activities like swimming, cycling and weightlifting are often touted for their joint-friendly properties. But low-impact workouts have more to offer than just being easy on your joints — a lot more, according to fitness experts.
Here, they outline the less discussed advantages of incorporating low-impact workouts into your routine.
REDUCED RISK OF MOBILITY-RELATED INJURY
Aside from the reduced risk of joint issues, there are other ways low-impact workouts minimize your injury risk. “For high-impact exercises, you need more mobility than you might realize,” says Jill Brown, a certified functional strength coach. “If your ankles or hips don’t have good mobility, you’re more likely to get hurt trying to jump higher or go faster.”
LESS RECOVERY TIME
“High-impact workouts call for a significant amount of downtime to recover,” says Christa Dellebovi, a personal trainer and director of fitness and education at CLMBR. This can translate into more frequent sessions. “Low-impact exercise routines allow you to cut back on rest days while still being able to achieve benefits of regular exercise.”
INCREASED STABILITY AND BALANCE
“Lots of times with high-impact workouts or dynamic movements, you are moving so rapidly that the body does not have time to stabilize, and you’re more concerned with the performance of that movement than with the mechanics of the body,” says Michelle Houston, a certified personal trainer. “Lots of low-impact workouts emphasize slow, stationary or single-leg activities which allow you to take more time in a movement to really establish balance in the body.”
IT FOSTERS BETTER TECHNIQUE AND ALIGNMENT
Because low-impact movements are often slower-paced, you have more time to focus on the mind-muscle connection. This leads to better results from your workouts in the long term, among other advantages: “This is extremely beneficial when learning new exercises, so you don’t create poor muscle patterns that, over time, can cause additional strain on your joints and connective tissue,” says Samantha Parker, a certified personal trainer and yoga therapist.
INCREASED RANGE OF MOTION
You’re more likely to use your full range of motion in low-impact exercises as opposed to high-impact ones, which can help increase flexibility and strength, according to Alissa Tucker, AKT master trainer. “Going through your full range of motion is important to keep the optimal length and strength of your muscles and reduce muscle imbalances and potential injury. It also helps you raise your heart rate even if you’re not doing designated ‘cardio’ moves.”
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE GAINS
If you’re hoping to get stronger, low-impact workouts are a must. Compare a jump squat to a weighted squat, for example. “Faster movements can actually be easier, as momentum helps you ‘cheat’ with the force being generated,” Parker explains. “When you slow the exercises down, the muscles are forced to work for a longer duration.”
GREAT FOR BEGINNERS
“Low-impact workouts can feel ‘easier,’ which can increase self-esteem, fueling the fire in continuing to stay on track with your workouts,” Parker says. And, keep in mind: Just because you’re not drenched in sweat doesn’t mean you didn’t get a great workout.
OPTIMAL FOR BURNING BODY FAT
“Low-impact workouts can burn more body fat per session,” says Jason Kozma, a certified personal trainer. This is because high-impact workouts put the body into the anaerobic zone, where your heart rate will be higher, but you’re less likely to use fat as fuel. You’re more efficient at burning fat at a lower heart rate. “People often read the value of a workout according to how exhausted they are at the end of the workout, but this often doesn’t translate directly into the desired results,” Kozma adds.
BETTER FOR YOUR FLOORS … AND NEIGHBORS
“Given the pandemic, a lot of workouts are being done at home,” notes Kevin Munoz, owner of PEAK PT. “High impact is not only high impact on your joints but also on your floors!” Most people don’t have gym flooring in their homes, so both your joints and your house take a beating, Munoz says. If you have downstairs neighbors, high-impact movements might also elicit complaints. If you’re looking to work out at home and keep things quiet, try this 10-move full-body workout.
“We all have days when we feel less than 100% or the idea of jumping around does not sound appealing,” Houston points out. Low-impact workouts are perfect for these days, as you can still get a workout in, no jumping required. More often than not, when you step outside for a walk to go just a few blocks because something is better than nothing, you end up going longer — and definitely not regretting it.
“Low-impact workouts cause less stress to the body both physically and mentally, Brown says. “We’re in a very stressful time in history, and while you might think you want to bust your butt to work off stress, lots of high-impact workouts can actually have the opposite effect and raise your cortisol (stress hormone) levels,” she explains. Low-impact workouts, on the other hand, can reduce stress levels, which is a key step in working toward virtually every health and fitness goal.
Check out “Workout Routines” in the MyFitnessPal app to discover and log workouts or build your own with exercises that fit your goals.