Is less really more? Many people are embracing the low-impact approach to working out and getting fit. But is it as effective as feeling the burn through high-impact workouts? Yes, it is, and here are some of the key benefits.
High and low impact exercise affects the brain differently (plasticity)
University Hospital Bonn took 25 male athletes underwent individual assessments using an incremental treadmill test. On separate days they performed low- and high-intensity exercise bouts for 30 minutes. Before and after exercising, Rs-fMRI was used to examine functional connectivity of different brain regions that are linked to specific behavioral processes. Participants also completed a questionnaire to measure positive and negative mood before and after the exercise. The behavioral data showed a significant increase in positive mood after both exercise intensities and no significant change in negative mood. The results of the Rs-fMRI tests showed that low-intensity exercise led to increased functional connectivity in networks associated with cognitive processing and attention. High-intensity exercise, on the other hand, led to increased functional connectivity in networks related to affective, emotional processes. High-intensity exercise also led to a decreased functional connectivity in networks associated with motor function.
It Reduces Your Risk of Injury
Experiencing an injury is one of the worst things for people who are becoming passionate about their fitness. But, while intense cardio can increase the risk of injury, especially things like a twisted ankle or knee that can occur while running, low-impact workouts are different. Take activities such as swimming, where the water and buoyancy support your joints, which limits the impact. Likewise, walking – while similar to running – does not involve the same approach as your feet are not pounding the pavement with the same force.
It can reduce fatigue in auto-immune conditions
Dr Jane Neill from Flinders University examined 162 research studies published between 1987 and 2006, analysing 36 in detail. They discovered that there was evidence that people with conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus could benefit from exercise that gradually increased in intensity, duration and frequency.
You Don’t Need a Gym
If you’re interested in getting into better shape, you know you can work out anywhere, but this is easier with low-impact exercise rather than high-impact exercise. Although you can always go for a run, there are other exercises where you need equipment or even other people to play with. This isn’t the same for low-impact exercises, and as long as you have the space to move around, you can enjoy a quick fitness routine wherever you are. You can also invest in yoga mats if you want to make the ground more comfortable and ensure stability.
You Can Do It At Any Age
Whether you’re a beginner or senior trying to get into shape, low-impact exercises are a spectacular way to improve your fitness and conditioning. High impact activities can be intimidating, but this isn’t the same with a low impact approach. Because of the nature of these exercises, you can take it as easy as you need and gradually work your way up toward something that benefits you. Low impact exercises also allow you to adapt as you need, which is ideal if you are nursing an injury.
Improves motor function in people with Parkinson’s Disease
“Our study showed that low-intensity exercise performed for 50 minutes three times a week was the most beneficial in terms of helping participants improve their mobility. Walking difficulty is the major cause of disability in Parkinson’s disease. Exercise may, in fact, delay disability and help to preserve independence,” says Lisa Shulman, M.D., principal investigator and professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
It Can Still Help Build Strength
Many people avoid low impact workouts because they don’t believe it is as effective at building strength. This is not the case, though, and you can still build muscle with weight equipment or not. A popular approach is to choose bodyweight exercises such as planks, situps, and more. But, you can also take advantage of weights if you have them. The good news is that they are not vital for a successful workout. You might not find the same effects as a full-weight set, but it’s enough to keep up with a successful fitness routine.
It reduces the likelihood of neurological disorders
An enriched environment during development has been found to have a number of positive effects on brain function, including the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders. Although exercise appears to have a particularly important effect, the combination of variables present in enriched environments can make it difficult to isolate the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects. Researchers at the University of Tsukuba developed an exercise model in which mice ran on a treadmill at a fixed speed. They then tested whether low-intensity treadmill running prevented abnormal behaviors in a mouse model of schizophrenia.
“The results were surprising,” explains senior author Professor Hideaki Soya. “Our finding that low-intensity exercise could prevent abnormal behaviors indicates that exercise may directly contribute to the prevention of schizophrenia.”
Making An Impact
If you’re looking for an effective and safe way to build muscle and reduce your risk of injury, the wide range of low-impact exercises is a fantastic place to start. You can stick with these exercises, or you can use them as a way to build towards more intense workouts. Whatever you choose, you’ll feel happier and more energized.