Does pounding the pavement during a run make your knees beg for mercy? If high-impact exercises that jostle your joints cause you pain, there’s another way to stay fit: low-impact exercise.
“Exercise is not a no-pain, no-gain scenario,” cautions Kenneth Schmidt, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff. “You may have some discomfort during exercise, but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, it’s time to see your doctor.”
If you have arthritis, you’ve recently had surgery or you’re getting older, your doctor may suggest low-impact exercise that’s gentle on your joints. With this type of exercise, you tend to keep one foot on the ground at all times and move smoothly, steadily and purposefully.
Six of his favorite low-impact exercises to help you get started are:
Walking is an easy and popular way to exercise, and it’s easy to see why. All you have to do is put on a pair of sneakers, and you’re ready to go. You don’t need special equipment, and you can do it anywhere. You can also tailor it to your fitness level. You may start out with a leisurely stroll, but if you’d like to challenge yourself, you can pick up the pace, walk in a hilly part of town or use ankle weights or carry dumbbells to boost the benefits of this exercise.
- Elliptical training machines and stair machines
When you use elliptical training and stair machines, the fluid motion of these forms of exercise is easy on your joints. You get aerobic exercise that burns calories and benefits your heart. Plus, with the elliptical trainer, you have the added benefit of working your upper and lower body at the same time.
- Recumbent or stationary cycling
Cycling is non-weight-bearing and low-impact. This means it won’t strain your joints. Cycling outdoors can be a relaxing way to get your exercise in the fresh air, but indoor cycling is safe, stable and fun, and can be done year-round.
- Swimming or other pool exercises
Moving your body through water is a great way to tone your muscles, get your heart rate up and burn calories. It’s especially easy on your joints due to the buoyancy of water.
- Strength training
Because it’s weight-bearing exercise, strength training is a great way to keep your bones healthy. It also provides a workout for your upper body, which many other exercises don’t. Strength training can help you burn calories, tone muscles and stabilize your joints.
- Tai chi
Dr. Schmidt’s favorite, tai chi, engages your whole body in exercise. By holding a series of poses, you work your core and strengthen the muscles that hold your joints in position. In addition to being great exercise, you don’t need to buy any equipment to participate. Dr. Schmidt likes to find tai chi videos online to try. For him, the benefits aren’t just physical. “It’s relaxing, and it enriches the soul,” he says.
Avoiding wear and tear
The good news is that these exercises have many of the health benefits of high-impact exercises while protecting your joints from wear and tear.
Low-impact exercise can help you:
- Strengthen your bones.
- Improve your cardiovascular health.
- Lose weight.
- Lower your blood sugar.
- Lower your harmful cholesterol levels.
- Manage high blood pressure.
- Prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Improve your mental health.
- Sleep better.
- Feel more energized
Remember: Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
If you’re concerned about the health of your joints, consult a HonorHealth orthopedic surgeon or call HonorHealth at 623-233-0873 to schedule an appointment.