A safe and productive workout routine is all about balance (we hear crunches pair nicely with Crunch Bars), but a high-intensity regimen is only as effective as it is sustainable. If you love your runs or at-home HIIT workouts, it might be time to swap that three-mile jog for something a little lighter on the joints. “When it comes to exercise, impact refers to the amount of force exerted on your bones and joints during physical activity,” Tracy Carlinsky and Lucy Sexton, co-founders of the digital fitness platform Bonded by the Burn tell us. “Higher-impact exercises put a more intense level of impact on your joints and tend to involve some form of jumping or jolting.” So if you have cranky knees or weak ankles, anything involving explosive, plyometric movement (like jumping jacks) could do more harm than good by causing inflammation or even tearing in the tendons and ligaments. “Low-impact exercises are those that are gentler on the joints or can be performed in a fluid motion,” like walking, cycling, yoga or pilates.
But are lower-impact moves less effective than the high-impact stuff? Not necessarily. They’ll still increase your heart rate and challenge your muscles (just with way less stress on the body). In fact, low-impact training can help target those small stabilizing muscles that surround your joints to help increase your overall strength, flexibility and balance.