Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Chu I Ta
5 Easy Low Impact Exercises to Boost Health and Vitality
Published | 6 min read
Many of us are not getting enough daily exercises while battling intermittent pandemic lockdowns. Try these 5 low impact exercises to jumpstart your health.
Perhaps you haven’t quite achieved your new year’s resolution to “go to the gym”, but don’t forget, low impact exercises can still give you great health benefits. Low impact exercises are a great way to ensure you get in some daily exercise. Best of all, many of them have great mind-calming benefits as well. As a precaution, do check in with your doctor prior to beginning any new exercise regimen.
1. Simple Stretching
Some people think of stretching as a warm-up, but you should try stretching as an exercise in and of itself. Stretching is a form of physical exercise that is both low impact and feels good.
While research is mixed when it comes to definitively stating that stretching prevents injury, at the very least we do know that when executed properly without overdoing it (which can cause injury), stretching helps reduce stress and stiffness while improving focus and flexibility.
It is better to do shorter stretching sessions of about 15 to 30 minutes daily rather than longer sessions but on fewer days of the week. Always warm up by doing some light movement prior to your stretching session to prevent muscle injury.
Once warmed up, start with simple neck rotations, followed by light torso bends, and then a hamstring and calf stretch. Hold for 5 to 15 seconds per stretch and aim to build up to a total of 60 seconds per muscle.
2. Basic Yoga Poses
Yoga is a relatively recent “import” to the West and became popular when visitors in India discovered this ancient form of spirituality that includes poses that also develop strength, balance, and flexibility. Today, it is a go-to form of low impact exercise with numerous yoga classes in person as well as online.
Try some simple yoga poses with the goal of simply being aware of your body without worrying about looking a certain way. While the word “pose” implies a lack of movement, to the contrary, in even the simplest yoga poses, there is a dynamic movement within the body through breath and musculoskeletal engagement.
To begin, try Mountain Pose to be aware of your musculoskeletal alignment and feel grounded. Child’s Pose is a great restorative pose that still provides a good stretch for your back, hips, and ankles.
If you’re up for a bit more challenge or dynamic movement, Downward Dog or Cat-Cow are among the most popular low impact exercises for lower back pain from all the prolonged sitting or standing. Your basic yoga session doesn’t have to be long. Even a 10 to 15-minute session at the start, middle, or end of your day can do wonders for your vitality.
3. Tai Chi and Qi Gong
From the subcontinent of India, we move up north to the home of tai chi and qi gong. These two related forms of movement meditation are centred around the concept of qi (vital life force) and its uninterrupted flow through the body’s energy pathways or meridians.
While qi gong focuses on sets of movements for a specific goal, tai chi is a martial art that consists of strings of movement almost like a slow dance. Both incorporate the concepts of yin and yang.
Like yoga, there are many forms and schools of tai chi and qi gong. The basic tenets are the same, which is to cultivate your qi or vital life force to maintain a healthy mind and body for long life and longevity. With today’s stresses and pressures, ailments can be understood as some kind of qi deficiency, excess, or being stuck. Make it a way to start your day as the sun rises, or perhaps to wind down as the sun sets.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), movements that “matches” the rise and fall of the day is better for good health, as you are training your body to be in tune with nature. Check with your TCM practitioner or perhaps your local tai chi or qi gong club and see if you can take some beginner lessons or follow-alongs.
There are some great online resources too. Trying these movements in meditation low impact exercises can help with your balance, joint mobility, stress relief, and an overall sense of calm.
4. Beginner’s Pilates
Joseph Pilates from Germany created Pilates when he arrived in the United States in the early 20th century. He had the idea of developing abdominal and core strength through a systemic series of exercises.
Pilates focuses on maintaining your neutral spine and engaging your core throughout each session. Breathing (or rather, not forgetting to breathe) is a key aspect of pilates in addition to the neutral spine to ensure efficacy as well as safety.
An introductory session of pilates whether in person or online involves bracing, which is a subtle yet critical movement often described as bringing your belly button closer to your spine while maintaining a neutral spine. Just doing this most basic pilates “move” alone is already quite a bit of work, and yet is low impact, in other words, safe for your joints.
Even just by doing basic pilates movements such as “tabletop” where you lift your knees at a perpendicular angle to the floor while lying flat on your back with a neutral spine and engaged abdomen, you will find that you are doing quite a core workout.
The last of the low impact exercises we’d like to share with you is very simple – walking! The human body is made to walk – our ancestors walked great distances from the dawn of time.
When looking at the entire period in which human beings walked more than they didn’t, it was only recently with the advent of agricultural sedentarism, office work, and automotive travel that we began to walk much less and sit much more. Walking is a cardiovascular exercise that also benefits your lungs as you need to breathe to fuel your muscles to propel you forward.
Walking is also a weight-bearing exercise similar to the previous low impact exercises we have shared, which holds many benefits for joint health and overall mobility. It also uses your glutes (buttocks) muscles, which can get quite lazy from all the sitting we do throughout the day.
Be sure to wear proper footwear and comfortable clothing. Even if you don’t live near a park, a daily 30-minute brisk walk around your housing complex would suffice.
From simple stretches that feel good to ancient mind-body practices that emphasize inner calm and balance, these low impact exercises will give you the vital boost that you need.
Remember to replenish your body after each workout session with herbs such as ginseng and lingzhi great at building and enhancing immunity. All these low impact exercises can be done inside your home, or even just around your housing complex. Go ahead – start today.
- Frontiers in Psychology. 2015. The relevance of stretch intensity and position—a systematic review. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
- National Health Services UK (NHS). 2019. Easy Exercises. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 2021. Yoga: What You Need to Know. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 2016. Tai Chi: In Depth. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021. The Impacts of Pilates and Yoga on Health-Promoting Behaviors and Subjective Health Status. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
- Department of Health, Victoria State Government. 2015. Walking for good health. [online] [Accessed 8 February 2022].
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