What is the best low-impact exercise? | Boulder Longevity Institute

People think that to see the health outcomes they would like that they need to participate in some form of high-intensity exercise, but low-impact activities can be just as, if not more, effective in optimizing health.

The first low-impact exercise that will give you results is easy. Walking. Between working in front of a desk all day to sitting on the couch after work, a sedentary lifestyle will lead to health problems down the road.  Walking during your fifteen-minute breaks at work as opposed to trolling the internet in the break room can benefit you by;

  • Promoting creativity. If you’re stuck on an issue at work, studies have shown that a fifteen-minute walk improves problem-solving abilities, even if you sit right back down at your desk after the walk.
  • Walking 30 minutes a day (both breaks, but you still get your lunch to sit) leads to an 18% decrease in coronary artery disease. In women, walking three hours a week resulted in a 30% decrease in cardiac death, heart attack, and 34% decrease in strokes.
  • Walking 30 minutes a day has been shown to decrease abdominal fat, which also lowers the likelihood of developing Type II Diabetes.
  • Motion is lotion. Walking can improve mobility, gait, balance, and reduce pain. Walking releases endorphins which are pain-relieving hormones, so getting up and going for a walk can help alleviate the pain from being sedentary all day at work.

If you don’t enjoy walking or have joint issues that make walking uncomfortable, try swimming. Water aerobics is low impact, and by doing the exercises in water, the impact on joints is minimal due to the buoyancy of the water and you get the benefit of a full body workout. Swimming increases blood flow to all the major muscle groups, delivering the nutrients and oxygen critical for cell function. Swimming is an excellent alternative to other low-impact exercises for those with chronic joint issues because you can swim for hours, and your muscles may be sore, but there won’t be any further joint or cartilage injury. Besides a towel and a pool, swimming doesn’t require any additional specialized equipment, except possibly a swimsuit, making it fairly accessible to everyone.

Stretching is another great activity that you can do anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Benefits of stretching include injury prevention, increased joint mobility, better posture, and reduced stress. Stretching reduces the risk of injury by ensuring muscles and ligaments are warmed up, loose, and limber, allowing you to safely enjoy your activities and possibly saving you a trip to BLI for a strain, sprain, or worse. Joint mobility is lost as we age, so all the time spent hunched over a computer has the possibility of long-term mobility limitations. So, it’s important to go through your whole range of motion of each joint to keep it and maintain it where it’s at. Posture is important for several reasons. Poor posture can lead to chronic back pain and cause breathing issues, even potentially increasing the risk of pneumonia.  Stretching the muscles of your back and neck to maintain good posture is important, so stretch after you’re done reading this article hunched over your phone or tablet. Stretching can also improve your mood. It can be used to practice mindfulness, and increases serotonin production, which is one of the hormones that make us feel good, reduces stress, and decreases anxiety and/or depression.

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Published January 20, 2023

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