For a person who knows he is out of shape and needs to start an exercise routine, but who has never before done so, the thought of simply starting can be more than a little intimidating. Many people truly don’t have a clue as to where to begin!
Often one of two things will happen. Quite often they will start too abruptly, without a proper warm up, make their initial workouts too hard, after which they get sore and discouraged, frequently quitting without ever really having gotten started.
They become convinced that working out is not for them. Or, on the other hand, they never truly challenge themselves and thus never make any progress. As a result, they conclude that working out doesn’t “work” for them. So, what is the secret to striking the correct balance between these two extremes?
Many trainers advise those who are coming to an exercise regimen for the first time to start by performing low impact aerobic activities, also referred to as “low impact cardio“. What exactly does this mean?
Simply put, low impact cardio refers to exercises that are easy on the joints while still providing a challenge to the heart, lungs and muscles. A person’s joints are often one of the body’s “weak links,” and any time a person is able to gain the benefits of cardio vascular exercise and/or strength training without putting undue stress on his joints, he is wise to do so.
To succeed with low impact cardio training, it is important to start gently, and slowly work up to a more strenuous routine, gradually increasing repetitions, time and distance. Make it a habit to keep a written record of what exercises you perform, for how long and how often. This habit will allow you to track your progress over time, helps keep discouragement at bay, and also lets you make changes to your routine based upon facts and not just memory.
Low Impact Cardio Exercises
The following are examples of types of low impact cardio exercises that are suitable for beginners.
Swimming — Swimming is perhaps the ideal low impact cardio exercise since it takes place in a weightless environment and puts virtually no stress on the joints at all. Swimming burns calories and gives the heart and lungs a considerable workout. Start with as many laps as you can comfortably manage and slowly work to add speed and distance to each session. For the average person, swimming burns between four and five hundred calories per hour.
Water Aerobics — The water makes the human body feel approximately 90% lighter than it actually is, and thus exercise in a water environment qualifies as low impact cardio. However the exercise can be quite strenuous! Water provides twelve times the resistance of air, and people who work out doing water aerobics within a class setting can expect to burn roughly the same number of calories per hour session as they would swimming laps.
Walking — Whereas jogging jars the bones and joints, brisk walking provides nearly the same benefits as jogging without the stress to one’s ankles, knees and hips. Both speed and distance play a part in the aerobic advantages gained with walking. A brisk pace, augmented by hand weights will get a person’s heart pumping, blood moving and will dramatically increase their metabolism.
Cycling — It matters little whether you employ a real or stationary bicycle when cycling. Pedaling works the muscles, the cardiovascular system, and to a degree, the knees’ range of motion but does not require you to life your feet, thus sparing your joints from impact. Some people find riding a traditional bicycle more enjoyable, but a stationary bicycle usually provides you feedback on your workout in the form of miles traveled, speed, etc.
Gym Machines — Machines such as elliptical trainers, rowing machines, stair steppers and arc trainers allow you to start at an easy pace, gradually upping the challenge as your endurance increases. On board controls allow the user to set each machine’s resistance, and/or incline to customize the level of difficulty.
Yoga and Pilates — Both yoga and Pilates are low impact, calorie burning, strengthening exercises that improve muscle capacity and core strength, but which put little stress upon joints. They each increase circulation and improve muscle tone.
As your strength and tolerance gradually increase you will find yourself needing to add additional factors such as the degree of resistance, length of time spent exercising and more speed to continue gaining maximum from your low impact cardio workout.
Other ways to add to your workout’s intensity is to modify your exercises with the addition of bursts of speed, by using large and exaggerated motions, really extending your reach and/or drive, and including the rest of the body whenever possible when you’re working its counterpart.
For example, if using the elliptical machine, use the hand bars that are available on most machines in order to work the upper body as well. If walking, add upper body jumping jack style arm motions.
If riding a stationary bicycle, pump three to five pound weights as you pedal. Make your entire body work a little harder, faster, longer, and more intensely. Even someone who is obese, or severely out of shape can experience success with a low impact cardio routine.
Remember the ship doesn’t begin to sail until it’s first got it’s rudder in the water. Start moving, don’t stop moving, and refine your path from that point forward. As long as you keep moving forward you are bound to succeed! Stay focused and get going!