When you’re recovering from an injury, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated to exercise again, or you may be itching to get back out there. Either way, you should take things easy while you up your training and start off with some low impact exercises. Research suggests that low impact exercise will help you get stronger, especially if you're convalescing.
Fitness expert Bernie Lefebvre of the Wellness Center-Cape Coral says, "A lot of people are afraid to exercise with chronic pain, which is understandable, but lack of movement can actually make chronic pain worse. The more you avoid exercise, the weaker the muscles get. Weak muscles will hurt more."
So, what kind of low-impact workout routines can help you get stronger without bringing tears to your eyes? A lot!
Up first is walking. That's right, walking. It should come as no surprise that walking is the Grand Poohbah (Gilbert and Sullivan reference) of low impact exercise. Healthcare specialists like Mr. Lefebvre have sung its praises for some time.
Walking is an easy way to get fit because the risk of injuring yourself while doing it is relatively low compared to more strenuous forms of exercise. Another thing: Numerous studies have shown that it is arguably the most effortless way to improve your overall health.
Numbers don't lie
Here's one example. Associates of the National Center for Biotechnology Information conducted a number of studies in 2010 to test the effectiveness walking had on a group of normally sedentary individuals. At the end of the study, the participants "reported improvement in flexibility, balancing, lower limb muscle strength, or depressive symptoms by low-intensity exercises."
Not into walking? Water aerobics is a great alternative, especially for people with mobility issues. Thanks to buoyancy, there's no danger of putting pressure on your joints when you're water walking or doing leg lifts or working on your upper body.
Of course, walking and water aerobics are not options for everyone, which brings us to weight training. Now, you may not think low-impact when you think of weight training. Images of hulking bodybuilders may come to mind, but the reality is you don't have to work with heavy weights in order for weight training to be effective.
Some repetitions with light hand weights will work just fine. Alternatively, you can skip the weights and try yoga. You can strengthen muscle and get a good cardio workout with different forms of yoga.
Strength training rocks because not only does it strengthen your bones and muscles, but it also revs up your metabolism. You will continue to burn calories well after your workout session.
Exactly how long and how often should you exercise? That depends on you and how much activity you can endure on your road to recovery. Always listen to your body for clues; stop when you need to stop, and add a few minutes when you feel up to it.
Here's what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends, which will help you get an idea of where you are now versus where you should be in terms of physical activity: "Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on 2 or more days each week."
After checking with your primary care provider and getting the green light, aim for 21-50 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, or every other day, and strength training at least twice a week.
Don't worry if you can't do 21 minutes right away. Remember what the health experts say: "Some physical activity is better than none."
If you are homebound or a homebody, you can watch fitness videos or hire a personal trainer. On the other hand, if you prefer being around other people, join a gym or fitness group. Being around others and receiving words of encouragement when you need it can help keep you motivated.
The bottom line
Low impact exercise can help you improve your overall quality of life. Just remember to check with your primary care provider before you get started.