5 Low-Impact Workouts

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Written By: Suzanne Kvilhaug

My relationship with fitness could be described in one word, fickle. If I go too hard, I eventually crash and if I go too easy, I get bored. So you’d think the middle of the road would work for me… sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Like I said, fickle. Some workouts annoy me to no end and some workouts I love from start to finish. The one thing I do stay consistent with is being inconsistent. Somebody has to keep fitness professionals on their toes right?! With that said, I’ve managed to exercise daily or close to it for years now. Even though I’m good about getting some form of movement in, what form that’s going to be a week from now...only the fitness gods know.

As I go in and out with different gyms and studios, I’m seeing that low-impact workouts are likely to be my preferred form of exercise for awhile. In fitness terms, low-impact workouts refer to exercises that are designed to put little or no harmful stress on the body. I’ve done bootcamp style workouts and I do love a HIIT class yet I’m naturally gravitating toward things that aren’t too demanding on my body. If someone asked me to be in a fitness video right now I’d request to be the one doing the modified version and doing it proudly.

“Question everything” could be used to describe how I think and my motto stands strong when I’m inside the gym. Some high-impact moves like burpees have always made me scratch my head. If I did CrossFit I’d be booed out of the place on Day 1. When it comes to my body, I’m not one to throw caution to the wind, more like I err on the side of caution. Oh and back to burpees, I wouldn’t be happy about hitting the deck if I was in a life or death situation so purposely doing it feels strange. When trainers call out “time to do burpees!” and the class as if it were on cue collectively moans and groans, I’ve felt it could be intuition screaming “ugh, but there’s potential danger involved” or maybe even “ridiculous, do something else!”. Something tells me Albert Einstein would agree but Jillian Michaels wouldn’t...to each his own.

Low-impact workouts have given me physical results, kept me in shape and felt right for my body. If you’re injured, new to working out or maybe you’re like me and would describe your current attitude towards fitness as “less is more” here are 5 great low-impact workouts.


Walking

Do walking teams exist? If they do I have to get on that one and be made captain ASAP. I’m like the Forrest Gump of walking, I just walk and walk and walk some more. Walking can be shunned upon because it’s easy and something necessary to get from point A to point B so people don’t realize how effective it can be. To get some insight from a powerhouse on a low-impact workout, I turned to Stacy Berman PhD founder of The System By Stacy and a trailblazer in the health and fitness industry. Stacy founded Stacy's Bootcamp and was called “a New York City fitness icon,” by Forbes Magazine and a renowned fitness, health and nutrition expert by Fran Drescher's Cancer Schmancer Foundation. “I've taken a lot of people on the road to recovery. Their conditions have varied enormously. One client, less than 6 months earlier, had a lung transplant, one had a neck injury and another came to me after hip replacement surgery. The one thing they all had in common was that we used walking as the primary movement practice until they were able to do more. Although on the outside they looked like they were "only walking," when measuring their heart rate and rating of perceived exertion, they were actually working really hard. For them walking was a great way to get moving, to build strength and stamina without causing more undo stress to the body. When the flats became easy we would walk hills and steps. Their fitness level increased so much simply by walking. In fact, one of them went on to complete a marathon and a triathlon. Moral of the story: Don't knock walking, it can change your life.” says Stacy Berman PhD.


Stair climbing

I stayed on the 15th floor of an apartment building recently and since I couldn’t get workouts in during the week I decided to walk the stairs once or twice a day. Yeah, the doorman looked at me like I was crazy and at around the 7th floor, I realized why. Holy smokes, I don’t think my heart rate would have registered on a heart rate monitor if I had one. And if I did have one, it would have read “911!”. I knew climbing stairs was tough but I didn’t realize how tough until I was huffing and puffing and praying for the number 15. Stair climbing helps increase stamina, improves muscle tone and the best part is that it’s easily accessible, low-impact, high intensity and has many health benefits. It can be strenuous so if you’re not in shape, start off slow and easy and increase the intensity and duration gradually.


Nalini Method

It’s been awhile since I took the Nalini Method but you don’t forget this class and you certainly don’t forget the creator Rupa Mehta. Voted as a top workout by Vogue, Oprah, Fitness Magazine and the NY Post, the Nalini Method is a dynamic workout that fuses barre work, Pilates, strength and resistance training, aerobics, and yoga. “When I created Nalini Method, my focus was not on weight loss; rather, it was about training clients to become stronger through small, repetitive movements that target a single muscle group at a time, as well as more sustained exercises — like planks and wall squats — that require both mental and physical strength to push through. We believe in strong mind, strong body. This is truly a total body workout — and as such, it changes clients' physiques from head to toe! As they gain muscle, they burn fat. And as they build on their strength and see their hard work paying off in class...they keep coming back, which leads to more results!” explains Rupa Mehta. Nalini Method is located in New York City and Rupa also has a Nalini Method YouTube Channel with a lot of great workouts you can do at home.


Cycling/Biking/Spinning

Vroom vroom! Growing up my friends and I used to ride bikes everywhere. I think I stopped riding a bike for almost 10 years until I decided on a whim to go for a bike ride one day. I kept seeing real deal cyclists all over the place and something clicked that I should give it a whirl for old times’ sake. And yes, the phrase “it’s like riding a bike” came to me the second I started pedaling. At the time I was running a lot and it was such a nice change of pace with way less stress on my body. Spin class and exercise bikes at the gym work too, it really comes down to what you like most. I rather bike outdoors but they all get the job done. Pining for the past? Get on the bike at least once. If you haven’t rode one outside in awhile, you may be surprised at how much you love it. Hey you never know, maybe you’ll even become one of those hardcore cyclists that look like they’re always on a serious mission.


Barre

I feel bad for first timers who take barre class and are about to realize that 3lb weights feel like 300lbs. Simply put, barre is no joke. “I took my first barre class almost ten years ago before the trend hit the East Coast. As an athlete I was used to beating up my body with high-impact workouts and intense cardio; I was pleasantly surprised when I found that not only was this type of method not only low-impact but incredibly challenging. Because barre classes are low-impact, they are typically safe for all ages and fitness backgrounds. Finding a class with a strong emphasis on the mind/body connection encourages mindful awareness of the body and how to work effectively within the body (i.e working smarter not harder). Exercises provide a gentle flow of movement designed to target commonly used major muscles groups followed by orthopedic stretches in which over time can help to increase strength and flexibility. This a great workout for anyone looking to begin and sustain a fitness regimen.” says Angela Hawthorne, the creator of the Mind Body Barre Method. Barre is great for people who want to develop lean muscle mass while improving balance, flexibility, and range of motion.