Getting into a consistent exercise habit is difficult for anyone, but those of us who have physical challenges that limit our exercise options, such as a bad knee or hip, are faced with additional challenges. When going out and taking a jog around the park, or running on a treadmill isn’t an option, what alternatives are we left with?
Luckily, there are some very effective low-impact exercise options available to you!
Common low-cardio suggestions include walking, swimming and biking. Walking, either on a treadmill, sidewalk, or elliptical machine is easy on the knees. Swimming laps is another great way to increase your heart rate, work with resistance and go easy on your joints. Biking, either on your gym’s stationary bike, or the one you’ve got sitting out in your garage, is a great lower-body workout that is sure to break a sweat.
Unfortunately, however, both of those routines can get a little dull after a while. How do you mix it up and stay interested, involved and active while maintaining a low-impact routine?
Here are some unconventional, low-impact cardio suggestions:
Rowing is a full-body workout that challenges both your muscular and cardiovascular endurance. It engages your core, back, shoulders and arms while still taking it easy on your hip, knee and ankle joints. Most gyms have a stationary rowing machine in the cardio area, but in the warm spring and summer weather, renting a kayak or canoe can provide the same workout, as well as a fun outing for an afternoon with your family or friends.
2. Rock Climbing
Have you ever tried to get up one of those fake rock walls? Isn’t it hard?! Look up your local rock climbing gym, and make a trip there once a week. Rock climbing is slow, controlled, and it allows you to test your body and push your limits in a safe low-impact setting. This option may not be the best, however, for anyone who has issues with their hands or wrists as professional climbers often experience arthritis and other ailments in these joints. As an occasional addition to your fitness routine, though, it’s a fun challenge.
3. Water Aerobics
Any fitness facility with a pool (even some YMCAs) offer some sort of Aqua-cise class. Water aerobics offers the same cardio benefits of a regular aerobics class, but with the added benefit of water resistance. This makes your body push harder to move through the water, while lessening the impact that the motions have on your joints. Don’t like swimming laps, aren’t really feelin’ the group-water class, but still want to utilize the impact-less wonder that is your local lap pool? Invest in an adult floatation belt. Wrapping this belt around your waist will keep you above water and upright, allowing you to “run” laps in your pool, even once it becomes too deep to touch the bottom.
4. The StairMaster
If you’ve ever spent any time on this baby, you already know… the StairMaster is the king of cardio. The combination of walking and climbing challenges your thighs and booty, and pushes your cardiovascular ability to the limit. If your gym doesn’t have a StairMaster, or you don’t have a membership to a gym, the same results can be achieved by walking up and down stairs in a near by stadium, shopping mall, apartment building, or even in your own home. If you see stairs…go and master them! Your body will thank you.
5. Strength Training
Most weight-lifting exercises are low impact, but still work up a sweat. Try looking up exercises that target shoulders, biceps, triceps, back and core in an online exercise database (bodybuilding.com has a very comprehensive one) to create a weightlifting routine that will get the sweat pouring, while still being gentle on your joints. Be sure to use a light-moderate weight at high reps for the ideal joint-friendly cardio challenge. If you struggle with knee or hip problems, avoid lunges and squats.
If you’re uncertain about an exercise and the way it will impact a particular struggle you have, don’t be afraid to ask a personal trainer at your gym, or your doctor for advice and guidance. Always remember to be safe.