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Examiner
  • Why exercise doesn’t have to be intense

  • Have you made that New Year’s resolution to get into better shape but dread the thought of the routine you might be in for? If you’ve been around a gym lately, you’ll notice they’re full of folks taking grueling stretches on the machines, jogging and weight lifting as though they were gearing up for the Boston Marathon – which may not be what you’re really wanting to accomplish.

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  • Have you made that New Year’s resolution to get into better shape but dread the thought of the routine you might be in for? If you’ve been around a gym lately, you’ll notice they’re full of folks taking grueling stretches on the machines, jogging and weight lifting as though they were gearing up for the Boston Marathon – which may not be what you’re really wanting to accomplish.
    If you’re trying to lose weight, you know it’s important to get your heart rate in the target zone (about 65 percent to 85 percent of maximum heart rate) in order to burn the necessary calories. That may come fairly easily to some engaged in high impact exercises, but for some, high impact is just not an option.
    Among those who may want to avoid high impact exercise are:
    • Pregnant women
    • Patients with chronic problems such as arthritis or osteoporosis
    • Those with injuries, especially stress fractures and joint problems
    • Those severely overweight
    • Beginners.
    A study published in the journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that older people (ages 60-75) need more frequent workouts than younger people to maintain muscle mass. On top of that, people in that age range are also more susceptible to joint injury.
    So, even if you belong to one of those categories, you can still get to that target heart rate with lower impact exercises, (where one foot is always in contact with the ground) but it may take a little more effort.
    By slowly easing into exercise with low impact activities, you can increase your heart rate, build muscle and shed unwanted pounds more easily than you might have ever thought possible. The most important thing is to find something you like to do, but also something you’re willing to do often. The following can be done without ever setting foot inside a gym:
    • Walking is perhaps the best low-impact exercise anyone can use to lose weight or get in shape, but it can get stale. Mixing up your routine can help. Start off slow and work up to faster and longer walks. Add an incline or hills to your walk to increase the calories burned.
    • Stretching may be one of the most overlooked (and important) forms of exercise. It may not sound like exercise, yet we do this all the time without really thinking about it. It has long been known that stretching improves your flexibility, your balance and circulation. Recent studies have found stretching can also increase your cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure. Keeping your joints pliable helps prevent the onset of conditions like osteoarthritis, muscle strains and back problems.
    • Stairs or step aerobics are perfect for those not suited to high impact aerobics. They’re slower paced and can be done just about anywhere. Walking up stairs, of any type, can be an intense workout and a great way to get your heart rate up. Beginners will be surprised to find how slow you can go and still get your heart rate up quickly.
    • Swimming is particularly good for those with joint issues. Even if you aren’t much of a swimmer, or don’t know how to swim, water aerobics classes can provide benefits to your entire body while taking the strain off of tender knees or ankles. It also gets the heart pumping and burns calories.
    • Yoga has become a popular choice for many people seeking low impact exercise. It promotes balance, stretching and well-being. Many tout its ability to lift the mood while developing strength and flexibility. It’s also popular because it can be done in classes or in the comfort of your own home.
    Page 2 of 2 - So if you’ve made that commitment to exercise, terrific! But don’t think it’s all or nothing. You can get a good workout, without the stress and strains on your joints.
    Dr. John is with Oak Grove Medical Clinic and is board certified in Family Practice and Sports Medicine. He can be reached at 816-690-6566.
     
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