November 3 2017
You’ve probably at least heard the terms “high-impact exercise” and “low-impact exercise,” especially if you’re an active adult who’s getting on in years. Most forms of exercise fall into one of these two categories, and the way to determine which exercise belongs where is actually very simple:
• High-impact exercises and sports are ones that make both your feet leave the ground at the same time, which means it includes jogging, running, any sport that includes running or tackling (since tackling knocks both your feet off the ground), and even things like jump rope and jumping jacks.
• Low-impact refers to activities that keep one foot planted on the ground at all times. That means walking, speed walking, cross-country skiing, and most dance aerobics, along with sports like golf and croquet. The term can also apply to activities that don’t stick to the ground but don’t involve jumping or falling over, which means things like cycling, swimming, weight training, and Pilates.
The reason people came up with these two categories is because they have some important differences. High-impact activities are usually more intense than low-impact because it takes a lot of effort to jump and run, and so you can burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. But that extra intensity brings along some extra risks: the impacts of high-impact activities put a strain on your joints and bones, and while bones can strengthen under the right kind of stress, joints can only become injured.
It’s because of that risk of joint injury that older active adults are better off practicing low-impact exercise. It may take longer or else burn fewer calories, but it preserves your joints and it means you can stay active even if you have an old injury or a condition like arthritis or osteoporosis. For that matter, even younger people should make sure low-impact activities are part of their weekly routine to keep the risk of stress injuries to a minimum.
Seniors of almost any age can remain active adults if they choose their sports and exercise routines carefully, which is why good retirement communities offer plenty of low-impact activities in easy reach whether they offer assisted living, independent living, or a combination of the two. Keeping fit is an important aspect of maintaining your independence as you grow older, so be sure to find a low-impact exercise that works for you and stick with it so you can stay fit for as long as possible.