In the fitness world, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the thing. The internet is packed with YouTube videos of this trainer or that exercise guru promoting his or her “5-minute workout” as the solution for all the busy, stressed and overweight people out there. The acronym alone can scare many off. High intensity or high impact? Yikes, my back is already hurting. Interval training? Ugh, jumping squats, burpees, and other crazy moves I can’t do, one after the other.
Before you run back to the couch with the remote and a bag of chips, there are activities that provide a cardio workout with little impact on joints and the spine. In fact, aerobic exercise can actually help relieve stiffness that leads to back pain while keeping the impact to the spine minimal. Cardio also increases endurance, lowers body fat, and helps regulate blood sugar.
Then there’s boredom. Doing the same thing over and over will cause anyone to cry “uncle” even if it is only for five minutes. Solution: Mix it up. Give your brain and body some variety. The list below works for beginners to seasoned athletes, young to not-so-much, and could be the way to ease back into activity if you’re recovering from an injury.
Walking. This probably tops every trainer and medical practitioner’s list of exercises. Walking is free. It gives you time to catch up with the significant other. It makes the dog happy. Walking on a treadmill allows you to catch up with your favorite TV shows. Add some variety with hills and arm/ankle weights to increase your heart rate.
Swimming: Do laps or water aerobics. Being in the water automatically provides low-impact resistance, strengthens muscles, and improves lung function.
Cycling: Whether you bike outside or in, stationary or through the neighborhood, cycling is a great way to increase your heart rate with little impact on your joints.
Yoga: There’s a reason so many athletes add yoga to their routines these days. The breathing relieves stress, the stretching eases joint and muscle tension, and poses use your body for strength training.
Far from an exhaustive list, these are just a few high-intensity, low impact activities everyone can do, regardless of the season. Pick one, start easy and then try another. As always, consult your physician before starting any new activity.
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