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Not So Deep Impact: 4 Low-Impact Workouts to Protect your Joints

High-impact cardio workouts like running can be fantastic and fun… but they can be hard on your joints, especially as you get older! The knees in particular play a key role in supporting your body’s weight, and knee problems can really curtail your daily activities.

If you experience pain or issues with your knees or ankles, or even if you are looking for a workout to keep your joints healthy and avoid problems down the road, you might want to look into a low-impact workout.

It is sometimes hard to get motivated around an exercise plan when you have sore joints, but exercising can actually be quite beneficial to your joints if you do it right. Studies have shown that low-impact exercises help increase strength, flexibility and also reduce stiffness and pain.

Here’s a few of favourite our low-impact exercise that easy on your joints, but still give
you a fantastic workout.

1. Yoga

Yoga is generally considered to be a low-impact form of exercise. It is extremely beneficial for building flexibility, balance and strength. Yoga’s breathing exercises are also great for stress reduction.

Some more advanced yoga postures (or asanas) are physically demanding, but for the
most part yoga is low-impact. Of course, remember to use your common sense: work within your ability level and be careful not to over extend yourself.

Some specific asanas that can be of benefit for the knees include Mountain and Triangle. Bends such as Warrior, Low Lunge or Extended Side-Angle are all good for both knees and ankles. Tree, Chair and High Lunge are great poses for your ankles. Hero Pose is also beneficial to ankles, but it will require kneeling. Using a folded towel under your knees will help reduce pressure for asanas that require kneeling.

Make sure to communicate with your teacher about your needs and health issues. At WFCC, your yoga teacher will be happy to provide you with asanas variations, as most poses have accessible variations depending on ability and skill level.

We have a variety of different Yoga classes available at WFCC… try a few out and see which style you like best!

2. Pilates

Generally speaking, most Pilates exercises are considered low or no impact. The inventor of this system, Joseph Pilates, created his exercises for dancers and athletes with rehabilitation in mind.

If you have a serious knee or ankle issue you are working through, Pilates can also be complimentary to physiotherapy. Again, similarly to yoga, most Pilates exercises have variations available based on skill and ability level. Ask your teacher for appropriate variations to reduce stress on your ankles and knees and to help strengthen these areas.

Pilates helps you to target specific muscle groups and build strength. Building the quadriceps and hamstrings can help better support the knee. Specific exercises that may be of benefit to the knees and ankles include leg circles, heel slides, and knee folds and ankle rolls.

WFCC also offers several different Pilates classes – you can find out more here.

3. Elliptical Trainer

The elliptical (or cross-trainer) is a cardio machine, which mimics motion of running, but without placing as much stress on the lower part of the body.

The motion for this machine using both the arms and legs at the same time, but has about the same of impact on the knees and ankles as walking. Elliptical trainers are a great alternative to using the treadmill.

Using the elliptical is a great way to work on leg strength and endurance. Start slowly on this machine and gradually work your way up to more intense and longer workouts.

If your range of motion is limited, please check with your doctor before using the elliptical.

4. Zumba

Zumba is a high-energy, fun, and motivating cardio class that fuses Latin dance with aerobic exercises. The best thing about these classes is that you get a great workout, but you’ll be having such a good time dancing that it won’t seem like work.

Types of aerobic exercise, such as dance and Zumba have been linked to reduced inflammation in joints and increased energy.

Depending on the instructor and specific class, Zumba can be high or low-impact. Here at WFCC, we have a special class, Basic Zumba, which is great for beginners and members with physical limitations.

Speak to your instructor about your knee and ankle issues. If you take a more intense class and they will probably recommend some simple modifications to the dance by doing side steps or small bounces instead of jumps.

What’s your favourite low-impact workout? Do you have any tips or tricks about being active with joint pain? We want to hear from you! Post your thoughts in the comment section below.