When we talk about low impact exercise, we often describe it as gentle or light. However, low impact exercise is simply movement performed with one foot always touching the ground. Low impact regimes are prescribed for those who are unable or unwilling to perform exercise at high intensity.
This does not mean, however, that low impact exercise is worthless. It is certainly true that low impact exercises are effective in improving fitness, losing weight and developing muscle tone. High intensity low impact workouts can burn as many calories as high impact workouts.
If you are trying to lose weight or become fit then you have probably heard that you should aim to exercise in the middle and upper range of your target heart rate zone, which is about 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, for most effective fat burning. It is certainly easier to raise your heart rate through high impact exercise but for many people, such as those who are pregnant, injured, or suffer from chronic conditions or are very overweight, this kind of workout is not an option.
Some kind of impact is important for maintaining healthy bones but you do not have to do a lot of jumping to achieve this. High intensity low impact workouts can raise your heart rate into the target heart rate zone, with only slightly increased effort.
Walking is one of the most popular low impact high intensity workouts. Ordinary walking is great for getting around but for real benefits it is important to increase intensity. You can do this by increasing the pace of your walking, using interval training by adding bursts of speed or an incline. Swing your arms to raise the intensity or use walking poles, as in Nordic walking, to increase your calorie-burn.
Step aerobics can be a useful alternative high intensity low impact workouts if you enjoy exercising to music but want to avoid the stresses high/low aerobics can have on the body. Stepping onto a raised platform will raise your heart rate without requiring you to do any jumping. To add more intensity, try using your arms or adding upper body movements, increasing the pace, using larger movements, or involving your lower body.
High intensity low impact workouts offer a great alternative to more stressful and uncomfortable forms of exercise and can be used effectively as part of a weight loss regimen or to improve cardio fitness and muscle tone.