Thinking about low-impact exercise - what pops into your mind? Older ladies doing aqua-aerobics? Prenatal yoga classes? Slow and steady yin yoga classes? Yes, these are all low-impact activities - but NOT the ones that I am doing! I want to introduce you to low-impact exercise as a sustainable, gradual and FUN way to move your body, lose weight, build strength and feel good. The exercises that I incorporate into my life make me love movement and look forward to when I get to move my body. Losing weight and keeping fit doesn’t need to consist of HIIT classes and consistently pounding the pavement. Low-impact exercise introduces you to a lifestyle that your joints will thank you for. In fact, a way that I like to approach it is summed up in a phrase that I swear by: “Small steps to big change.”
What is low-impact exercise and why is it beneficial for me?
Defined by most trainers as movements where one foot is always on the ground (no jumping movements), low-impact exercise minimises the force exerted on your body and joints. You can start from square one, with beginner low-impact workouts, and gradually build the intensity and duration as you gain strength and endurance.
Walking is the most underrated form of exercise. It is a fantastic, low-impact activity, and incorporating walking into your workout program will boast many physical and mental benefits. Physically, it offers a low-impact alternative to HIIT or running that improves circulation and endurance, reduces risk of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic illnesses and prevents weight gain. The mental benefits include elevated mood due to endorphins release (feel-good chemicals in the body), stress relief, increased mental clarity, alleviated depression/anxiety symptoms, and a sharper memory. One study with Stanford University even showed that walking (versus sitting) increased creative output by 60%!
The Anti-HIIT Movement (Steady-state Cardio)
If you are like me, you have tried running and other high intensity exercise, and it wasn’t long before you began to dread your sweat sessions because just felt too hard on your body to maintain over a long period of time. The stress placed on your body during high-intensity, high-impact training can actually have an adverse effect on your fitness and weight loss regimen. This can result in raised cortisol and insulin levels, which can wreak havoc on your mental health, immune system, and sleep schedule, as well as prevent your from losing weight.
Steady-state cardio is a workout where you make a continuous, steady effort at a fixed intensity over 10-90 minutes, depending on your fitness levels. You should aim to raise your heart rate into the fat-burning zone, which is usually 55-70% of your maximum heart rate, and maintain that for the duration of your workout. This low-impact, steady cardio is not only an effective way to shed the pounds, it will not take a drastic toll on your joints and your body that HIIT would. With reduced impact on your body, you will be much less likely to suffer from inflammation and injury - meaning that you can continue your exercise program without interruption.
Studies show that steady-state cardio, such as walking, can be more effective and more sustainable way to exercise, instead of punishing your body with interval training and HIIT-style workouts. No matter your age or fitness level, it will benefit your body to incorporate low-impact training into your exercise regimen. Low-impact exercise really allows you to control the intensity of your workout - allowing you to modify the workout to meet your specific needs or wants while still working up a sweat.
What low-impact exercises can I do?
There are so many different ways to work up a sweat without putting unnecessary stress on your body. Swimming, cycling, yoga, dancing, elliptical (cross-trainer) machine, Pilates, and walking are all great examples of some low-impact exercises that you can integrate into your lifestyle. Increasing your strength and endurance with weight training is also a low-impact exercise that is integral to any fitness program.
For me, an enjoyable workout is immensely satisfying and keeps me coming back for more. Craving that fulfillment is what led me to combine my favourite things (dance, strength training, music, choreography and walking) to create a brand and workouts for anyone wanting something different, fun AND able to do anytime, anywhere! I created my Up To The BEat workouts because I was bored with the stock-standard low-impact exercises that were available.
Getting my heart pumping without jumping was a key focus for me - and I wanted to create workouts that I would look forward to each day, instead of relying on going for a walk outside as my only option. Combining walking, dance moves and toning, I created (and continue to create!) TONS of FUN workouts of different focusses (toning, cardio, step count etc), intensity, and duration while remaining low-impact.
Low-impact definitely doesn’t not mean low sweat! No matter what stage of the fitness journey you are on, you can find a way to mix in some low-impact, steady-state cardio sessions.
Just starting your fitness journey can be daunting and I want to be here to support you all the way. I would suggest starting off with short or segmented workouts. The aim is to simply increase your activity little by little, slowly building your strength and endurance. Doing these home workouts is also a great way to ease into adding more exercise into your lifestyle.
This is the beginner workout I created, Dance that Walk, a 45 minute session which engages your upper body, lower body and core through a walking-based workout combined with 4 easy dance moves. Throughout this workout, you smash 5000 steps! You can also start with my beginner series on Youtube where you begin with a 5 minute workout and over 10 sessions you work up to 50 minutes of exercise.
Intermediate: Incorporating Low-Impact Workouts into Your Fitness Regimen
Maybe you are burnt out from HIIT, recovering from an injury, or you’re bored with your routine and stuck in a but of a fitness rut. Changing up your routine or trying something new has massive benefits on your body and forces it out of it’s comfort zone. Hopefully along the way, you find some low-impact workouts that you love as well!
A two mile walking workout infused with cardio and exceeding 4000 steps might be just the thing to light your fire! This workout remains my most popular Youtube workout to date and is a great way to squeeze in a lively 30 minute sweat session into your day. Dance that Walk - Cardio Party contains two of my high energy intermediate workouts. Torch calories and smash 10,000 steps in 2x 45 minute sessions. Move your body to Latin beats or groovy disco for a fun-filled workout you will want to schedule in to your weekly routine!
Advanced: Modifying and Turning up the Heat
For the more advanced fitness buff, adding low-impact exercise into you routine or swapping your morning run for a session with me will give your body and joints some much needed downtime. Even the most advanced fitness addict can modify any workout to make it more challenging. Turn up the intensity on any exercise with intervals on the elliptical, deeper lunges or extra arm movements.
Still craving total body circuit-style training to tone up and increase your metabolism? Dance that Walk - Total Body Circuit has workouts for upper body, lower body or the option to fuse the two for a massive fat-shredding session. All low-impact, dancing, walking and toning to ensure a safe, full-body workout. Why not have fun while blasting fat and toning your body?! You can also do as many workouts as you want on Youtube - try some back-to-back sessions, like 10 Minute Total Body, Standing Abs, and Booty Band or HIIT Cardio at Home for a guaranteed sweat session with high intensity but low impact to melt away the pounds.
Setting Yourself up for Success
In the long-term, finding exercise that you look forward to is paramount to continued success with your fitness program. There’s no reason that fun and fitness can’t go together - incorporating low-impact workouts in to your week will only benefit your body and mind. The most sustainable way to lose / maintain weight is through low-impact exercise - and you have plenty of options to choose from! The saying “when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work” applies just as much to fitness as it does to your job! Have fun, try out all different styles and see what you connect with so you can make small steps to big change!