Low impact exercise equipment can be a great help for getting in shape without putting undue stress on fragile joints or old injuries. But how do you pick the right equipment for your situation? Do you have to buy it yourself or can you find it at your local gym?
Who Benefits From Low Impact Exercise Equipment
In theory, nobody benefits from HIGH impact exercise, but most young, healthy adults don't have a problem with it. Some are blessed with extremely stress-resistant bodies, such as the ultra-marathon runners who can literally run around the clock, or why not just take a peek at the kids in the local skate park? "Normal" people may contract two or three hairline fractures just looking at them.
However, once you get up in the years, carry some extra pounds, have a medical condition or have an otherwise more fragile physique or decreased ability to withstand high-impact exercise, it is prudent to opt for safer fare. That doesn't necessarily translate to "easy" -- you can get a killer workout without turning your knee joints into tapioca pudding.
Three Good Low Impact Options
There are some good examples of low impact exercise equipment that fit the bill nicely. The thing they all have in common is the lack of that "thud" of slamming your foot down on the pavement. This moment of impact sends a shockwave through your legs and spine, which may not have much effect in and of itself -- but a few thousand repetitions does.
One of the best examples of excellent training without undue stress is the elliptical trainer. This ubiquitous machine, found in practically all gyms, simulates the running experience, except you keep your feet firmly on the pads at all times. Most machines can be adjusted for simulating uphill sprints, flat-ground jogging and anything in-between. Some even come with handles, imitating the cross-country ski experience for a full-body workout. While there are elliptical trainers for home use, many are of inferior quality, making the gym options more viable.
This classic is found both at home and at the gym, and unlike the elliptical trainer there's not that much of a quality difference once you remove the computerized bells and whistles. You sit on it, set the resistance and pedal away until your time is up. Simple as that. Boredom can be something of a problem, however, and here's where the gym may have a leg up -- look for the new generation of virtual exercise bikes, as these provide a whole new experience and the possibility of competing against friends.
For the home trainer, a BOSU ball can be a cheap but effective tool for all-around low impact exercise. This odd creation looks like a medicine ball cut in half, and the main focus is to maintain balance, which is something most of us can benefit from. Besides that, you can do a surprising amount of cardiovascular and strength training exercises using the BOSU as the centerpiece. Since it is, in fact, half an air-filled rubber ball, it works as an effective shock absorber for anything you do. Some gyms offer BOSU classes as well.
Other Low Impact Exercise Options
- Swimming is the classic low impact exercise. There's a reason many physical therapists like water training so much -- it lets the muscles work, yet the risk of injury is minimal.
- Wii Fit is a new way to beat the boredom if you have a Nintendo Wii at home. Simply plug in the balance board and get started with strength training, yoga, cardio and balance training. A few exercises are high-impact, but the majority aren't -- it's actually quite fun.
- A rowing machine, in the gym or for home use, is another good option that can make you break a good sweat without hammering your skeleton. Good luck!