Joint pain is one of the most common health complaints that patients report to their doctors. Nearly one in four adults in the U.S. is affected by joint pain, especially in the knees and back.
One of the challenges of dealing with joint pain is finding ways to stay physically active — without worsening the joints. If you are one of the many who experience joint pain, consider these forms of low-impact exercise that will keep you fit and healthy while being kind to your body.
If there is an exercise equivalent to a superfood, it’s swimming! Swimming is an all-encompassing exercise rich in health benefits. Since the water absorbs any harsh impact, you can increase your breathing and heart rate without affecting your joints. Swimming works all your muscles from head to toe and helps lower blood pressure and control blood sugar levels. If you have access to a swimming pool, take advantage and swim some laps whenever you can.
While walking might not be the most intense exercise out there, don’t underestimate the positive effect it can have on your health. It is, in fact, an extremely beneficial form of exercise that is also easy on your joints. Walking is shown to not only ease joint pain but also minimize cravings, reduce the risk of breast cancer and boost immune function. Even just 15-30 minutes of walking a day can make a significant difference in your health.
Like swimming, biking is another form of low-impact aerobic exercise, causing you to breathe heavily and your heart rate to accelerate. Whether you ride a bike outside or participate in a cycling class at the gym, biking can have numerous positive effects, including muscle strengthening, weight loss, improved mental functioning and decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.
You don’t need a boat, oars and a competitive team of seven other rowers to reap the benefits of this exercise. Most gyms have rowing machines, which simulates the same movement, allowing you to work out your upper and lower body with each stroke. Rowing is low impact and can add some nice variety to your workout routine.
Pilates entails repetitive exercises that promote strength, stability and flexibility. The six-point philosophy includes centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. Not only is Pilates low impact, but the emphasis on strengthening the core helps improve posture and reduce back pain. If you haven’t tried it before, consider attending a Pilates class to see if it’s for you.
6. Tai chi
Based on ancient Chinese tradition, tai chi involves a series of slow, focused movements along with deep breathing. Although it is a gentle exercise, it can have profound physical and mental benefits, including decreased stress, anxiety and depression and improved mood, aerobic capacity, stamina, flexibility, balance, agility and strength. There is power in movement, even if it doesn’t seem strenuous.
Like tai chi, yoga is a gentle, meditative practice that involves a flow of postures and stretches accompanied by controlled breathing. It is great for all ages and can range in level of difficulty. Yoga is shown to improve strength, balance and flexibility and can relieve symptoms of back pain and arthritis. It can also reduce inflammation and promote a healthier heart.
8. HIIT Workouts
A HIIT workout, which stands for high-intensity interval training, is highly intense — clearly — but it doesn’t have to be high impact. There are low-impact HIIT workouts that don’t involve sprinting, jumping jacks or high-knees but instead are a circuit of strengthening moves that keep you on your toes without being hard on your joints.
While each of these forms of exercise is different, they all provide common benefits of exercise, such as improving your physical health, mood, sleep and stress levels — and they are all easy on your joints. Find out which exercises work best for you, and feel free to switch up your workout routine to include a variety of these exercises. You will feel good, and your joints will thank you for it!
Sarah Romney is a project manager at Stage Marketing, a full-service content marketing agency based in Provo.