Both low-impact and high-impact aerobic exercise can be beneficial to your health.
If you suffer from a sedentary lifestyle, it may be time to get off the couch and begin working out. Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio exercise, works your heart and lungs while exercising the muscles of your upper and lower body as well as your core muscles. There are two different types of aerobic exercise -high-impact exercise and low-impact exercise. Alternate your workout between the two to help you stay engaged and motivated to meet your fitness goals.
High-impact aerobic exercise means both your feet leave the ground simultaneously during the workout. Running, jumping rope, skipping, jumping jacks and other types of plyometrics are all considered high-impact exercise. These exercises tend to have a high-level of intensity, which means you burn more calories. If you have a good base level of fitness and strong joints, high-impact exercise could be the right choice for you.
Running might possibly be the most popular type of high-impact aerobic exercise, as it can be done most anytime, anywhere, without much preparation or extra equipment. However, running can put stress on your bones and joints with each step you take. Running on a treadmill or on softer terrain can help counter the negative effects of a high-impact workout.
To avoid stress fractures sometimes caused by the harsh impact of these workouts, vary your aerobic routine to include some forms of low-impact aerobic exercise, giving your joints a chance to rest and recover.
Know the Low-Impact Difference
Strictly defined, low-impact cardio means at least one foot stays in contact with the ground at all times, but some low-impact activities, like swimming and cycling, don't involve this movement. Hiking, walking, rollerblading and most step aerobic routines are examples of low-impact sports, as well as swimming. While the intensity of these workouts tends to be lower than high-impact cardio, low-impact aerobic exercise still works your body's muscles and increases your heart rate, without the additional strain to your joints.
Choose low-impact cardio to start with if you are just beginning your fitness routine. Low-impact sports can also be safer for the elderly or injured. Swimming is an excellent form of low-impact cardio exercise as the water provides a constant resistance to work against while cushioning and protecting your joints against jolts and impacts.
Cycling is also considered a low-impact sport, though it only works the lower body and should be coupled with another form of cardio if you want to target your upper body as well. For other types of medium- to low-impact sports, try cross-country skiing, in-line skating, walking and dancing.
Boost Your Health
Consistent aerobic exercise helps you burn calories to lose fat, but it has even more far-reaching health benefits, including preventing heart disease, improving your mood and helping your body work more efficiently so that you have more energy throughout the day. Cardio exercise will release feel-good chemicals called endorphins that can help alleviate stress and make you feel better. Your self-confidence can also be positively impacted by different types of aerobic exercise as you slim down and tone your muscles for an improved self-image.
Warm it Up
Consult your doctor before attempting new types of aerobic exercise to insure they are right for your body type. A physician or physical trainer can also help you determine the appropriate intensity level for your workout to meet your fitness goals. Remember to warm up and cool down on either side of a cardio workout. Begin with a light form of cardio, such as a brisk walk or jog for about 20 minutes. Once your muscles are warm, stretch before beginning your high- or low-impact cardio workout. Stay hydrated by keeping water at hand, even when in the pool.