MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – Exercisers can’t lose. Whether a workout is a leisurely walk in the park or flat-out wind sprints up a hill, the benefits of both low-resistance exercise and high-resistance exercise are many.
Just in time for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May, here are some tips from Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body-building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization.
“Exercising at the lower end of the intensity zone has benefits, too,” Goldwater says. “Gentler exercise can decrease fatigue and increase energy significantly, especially for those who are older, under the weather, stressed, or eat poorly.”
In these situations, high-resistance exercise creates more work for the body at rest. The body says, for instance, “I can’t fight this cold and build muscle at the same time” or “I can’t build the necessary muscle, repair tissue, and do all the wonderful things I’m supposed to on junk food’s empty calories.” For this group of exercisers, low-impact exercise becomes the better choice.
Low-impact activities can be an enjoyable break in the day, making it more likely to stick with a routine. The stretching and strengthening components are performed using only body weight as resistance.
Options are as plentiful as exercise mats. Calisthenics, yoga, Pilates, and low-impact aerobics can produce great results. Swimming is a good example of a low-impact exercise that requires a significant amount of energy. Cardio-boxing, where the person delivers blows or punches to a heavy boxing training bag, is a newer option that is popular for the total body fitness it delivers.
On the other side of the gym, Goldwater notes, high-intensity exercise can yield the same or better results than low-impact in just half the time, because intensity is the exercise factor that drives fitness levels up most quickly.
“Since a vigorous workout sometimes has the drawback of being a ‘race against time,’ and fewer people can find the time to exercise for several hours each week, an alternative is to fit the workouts into less time by adding intensity,” she shares.
The downside of intense exercise is that it may produce more injuries. However, there are ways to avoid this:
- Speed work, sometimes called wind sprints, limits intensity to a very short time.
- Cross-training, or using muscles for a different activity than usual, adds intensity for the muscles.
- Lift weights, especially with machines.
- Interval training adds short bursts of intensity to a typical workout. Consider any of these examples:
- Jogging, where a slower pace is punctuated with running
- Swimming a slow lap and then a race lap
- Running with wind sprints at intervals
- Riding a stationary bike with two-minute periods of high-resistance pedaling
- Jumping rope at a moderate pace, then adding a fast minute or two periodically
“It’s important to begin interval training with a single high-impact burst,” Goldwater instructs. “Also, warm up and cool down to transition into the highest intensity phase. Take a day or two off; even three times a week is enough to see results with high-impact exercise.” However, don’t let the intervals become easy. Once you conquer the pace, step it up again, safely, and expand your comfort zone.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 62 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call (800) 932-8677.
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