High Impact Vs Low Impact Exercise For Seniors

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Senior citizens can benefit from exercise just like anyone else. As a matter of fact, the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association and most other globally recognized health institutions recommend 2.5 hours of moderately intense aerobic activity each week for men and women over 50. The question is, should seniors be focusing on low impact or high impact exercises?

Defining High, Low and No Impact Exercise

In the physical fitness community, a high impact exercise receives that label if both of your feet leave the ground at the same time during your workout. This includes activities like running, jumping rope, jumping jacks and some cardio dance moves. Your body is experiencing the maximum possible impact every time you land. Most physicians and physical trainers recommend adults over 50 steer clear of high impact exercises.

Low impact exercises are defined as those where only one of your feet leaves the ground at any given time. This includes walking, hiking, most step aerobic exercise programs and some cardio dance workouts.

It is a common fallacy to consider water aerobics, cycling, elliptical machine exercises, Pilates and yoga as low impact workouts. However, in most cases both of your feet remain on the ground during these exercise programs. This means that these are technically “no impact” forms of physical activity.

What Are the Best Exercises for Senior Citizens?

Low and no impact exercises are recommended for men and women over 50, senior citizens and those recuperating from accidents, surgery and medical conditions. Your bones, joints and tissues as a senior are not as strong and pliable as when you were younger. This means that you want to experience less impact on your body as you age.

There is a very good reason that you don’t see too many professional football players in their late 30s and 40s. This is a high impact profession. To limit injuries and still receive the maximum health benefits that exercise can provide, adults over 50 should go low or no impact when working out.

No Pain No Gain, Right? Wrong!

In recent years huge strides have been made concerning our understanding of exercise. We now know that more than 5.0 hours of moderately intense to strenuous physical activity each week actually shortens your life span! Significant studies also show that just 2.5 to 3.5 hours of physical activity weekly with your heart rate at 60% to 80% of its maximum delivers the most health benefits. This means excessive weight lifting and long-distance running are not as healthy and smart as “sensible” physical activities that get your heart pumping for short periods of time. This is what low-impact exercises offer.

Low Impact Exercise Ideas for Older Adults

Older adults (those over 50 years of age) can benefit from regular exercise. Psychological, emotional, social and physical benefits are rewarded to older adults that stay physically active on a regular basis. However, your body is not as physically capable as it used to be.

That means you should attempt to focus on low impact exercises as a means of staying active. Listed below are several ideas for enjoying exercise as an older adult, without subjecting yourself to the possible dangers of high impact activities.

Join a Seniors Hiking Club

Joining a hiking club is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors while staying physically active at the same time. Thanks to the power of the Internet, finding a hiking club that caters to your specific age group is as simple as a few clicks of the mouse.

Do Some Yard Work

Raking leaves, mowing your lawn, weeding your garden and planting flowers are all physically demanding activities. They are all low impact forms of exercise as well. Health experts recommend spending time outdoors each and every day, and handling some overlooked yard work is a great way to do exactly that.

Take the Stairs and Not the Elevator

This is a no-brainer, low impact exercise that older adults (and younger) frown upon. Whenever possible, hit the stairs instead of lazily boarding the elevator. Your heart, mind and body will all benefit from this simple to perform but much avoided low impact physical activity.

Walk Instead of Driving

If you live 20 miles from your job, walking instead of driving is probably not a smart move. However, simply out of habit human beings reach for the car keys far too frequently. If your destination is less than 1 or 2 miles away and the weather is cooperating, why not walk and enjoy the scenery while you benefit from this low impact activity?

Go For a Swim

Swimming is an excellent low impact exercise. It could also be considered “no impact” because of the buoyant properties of water. Many health professionals and personal trainers consider swimming to be the perfect exercise, since it effectively reduces the stress, strain, and impact of traditional exercise.

Hit the Dance Floor

Whoever said exercise had to be boring? Call your friends, grab your partner and head out for a night of dancing. Different types of music require higher and lower intensity dance moves, so you can cater your rug cutting evening to your particular fitness level.

Go Stand up Paddling

What exactly is an SUP? Why, a stand up paddleboard of course. Imagine a wider, longer surfboard that you stand on. That is exactly what a stand up paddleboard is. It promotes physical fitness from head to toe, since your body is constantly balancing as you stand on your board and propel yourself through the water with a long handled paddle.

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