Incorporating more low impact workouts into my exercise routine has dramatially changed my relationship to exercise- in a good way.
I will outline some of the top reasons that sometimes a low impact workout will be better than a high intensity one.
Reduced risk of injury
When you do more low impact workouts (Pilates or yoga for example) there is a lesser chance you will strain or pull a muscle. The routines are designed to work your muscles but without any wear or tear as a side effect.
Increase your mobility and flexibility
Pilates and Yoga routines often incorporate stretches throughout the routine- wrist stretches, cat cows, pigeon pose for the hips, bridge, hamstring stretches on your back etc. It is not uncommon for a low impact workout to both begin with stretching and end with it. Stretching deeply and focusing on the mobility within your body is incredibly beneficial for your joints- giving them a beautiful massage, and reduces the risk of arthritis, injury and any general feeling of pain or stiffness in your body. Lower back pain plagues many people, and the cure for it can simply be stretching more and giving yourself that time to release.
Improve your strength and endurance
Many people think Pilates and Yoga is a waste of time because it is “easy” and you can get through it without breaking a sweat or breathing very heavily. I used to have this mentality as well. However once you regularly start doing Pilates, specifically the amazing women I will link later who put up routines, you will realize it is not easy at all, and in many ways can be more challenging than traditional tough exercise routines. These workouts require intense concentration and you have to pay close attention to your form the entire time to do it properly. You truly have to make that mind muscle connection – focusing on the muscle being worked and how it feels. For this reason, it is my opinion that Pilates builds a different kind of strength than any other kind of exercise. When you feel that intense burn that causes your muscles to shake , you’ll know what I mean.
Does not raise cortisol levels; can be done everyday without fatigue
Even though the bullet I mentioned above talks about the true difficulty of Pilates and lower impact workouts, the most wonderful thing about Pilates is that it does not elevate your stress hormones like other exercise programs. Doing very high intensity workouts every day is not only going to tear down your body, but it will raise your stress levels, triggering a fight or flight response each time. Overtime, it can become very counterintuitive because even though you are working out so hard, with constantly elevated cortisol levels and little rest, fat loss won’t come easily. When your body is stressed, it actually holds on to fat as a coping mechanism.
This Podcast featuring Tasha Franken, a wonderful model and Pilates instructor on Youtube and Kenzie Burke is worth a listen. Tasha shares her experience with trying high intensity workouts like Barry’s all of the time but never seeing the results she wanted. She did not give her body time to properly recover or heal after the workout and instead was constantly pushing herself to the limit.
My favorite Pilates workouts include Melissa Wood Health, Tasha Franken and Nicole Kastoun. I highly recommend you guys try out this method at least a few days a week if you are only used to doing high intensity routines. The other benefit is that Pilates and low impact workouts will strengthen your core like no other, so when you do the high intensity stuff it will feel easier since you already have that foundational core strength under your belt. I like doing high intensity 2-3 times a week, but allowing myself that crucial rest and doing low intensity routines on the days where I am not pushing myself, has not only reduced the stress on my body, but also my mind.
Let me know what you think!