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Burning Calories: Low Impact Aerobics

There are two types of exercise that perform different functions. Aerobic exercise is sustained activity involving major muscle groups, such as swimming, running, or brisk walking. Your heart and respiratory rate increase, and more oxygen is circulated through the body.

This type of exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system and increases your overall strength and stamina. The goal of aerobic is for your pulse to reach a training rate that is appropriate for your age. You must stay at that rate for twenty minutes and you should exercise three times a week in order to gain benefits of aerobic exercise.

In fact the American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic exercise (such as aerobic dancing, walking, bicycling, or swimming) be done three times a week for at least 20 minutes at 60% of the maximum heart rate. Doing less will minimize your benefits.

Low-impact aerobics are those movements involving large muscle groups used in continuous rhythmic activity in which at least one foot contacts the floor at all times. It has evolved to decrease the lower leg overuse injuries associated with high-impact classes.

This type of exercise is ideal for special populations such as seniors, pregnant women and overweight people. It is an excellent way to begin an exercise program for those who have not exercised for some time and who want to ease into a program.

The guidelines for these programs include arm and leg movements which are controlled, as problems with the knee may occur due to repetitive use of a flexed knee. With low-impact, more fit people may have difficulty achieving adequate intensity, therefore they are told to use larger movements.

Using large arm movements in the upper body will also increase the intensity of the movements. What does this mean for you? It means that when you begin a walking program, you may walk at a slow rate and keep your hands in your pockets and still be able to get your heart rate up, however, as you become fit, you may have to increase your step length and rate and move your arms as you walk to get to the same level. In fact, at that level you may want to graduate to a low-impact step class or dance class, but of that later.

Each exercise session should start with a warm-up and gentle stretching. We have brought you articles in this Exercise section on this subject, so just go back and reread them. It should end with a cool-down. Hardwood or flooring with some cushioning is best for all aerobic activities. A floor that is too soft may cause ankle sprains. Never dance or exercise on a dirty or sticky floor for obvious reasons.

Aerobic activity is an important adoption to low and moderate-intensity exercise. Some examples of these activities are:

  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Racket sports like tennis
  • Rowing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Using aerobic equipment like a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical machine, etc.
  • Water aerobics and walking
  • Ice skating
  • Belly dancing
  • Fit ball class

Non-aerobic classes include: These are important to make your body shapelier and to help you loose inches.

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Circuit classes
  • Body sculpting classes
  • Balance classes

We have alluded to your target heart rate in this article and so we thought we’d bring you this chart that should be posted in every gym.

Remember that you are heading toward a heart rate that is 50-75% of the average maximum rate.

AgeHeart Rate
20-3098-146 beats per minute
31-4093-138 beats per minute
41-5088-131 beats per minute
51-6083-123 beats per minute
61+78-116 beats per minute

If you have osteoporosis, avoid activities such as bowling or golf which cause a twisting of the body. Good exercises for those with this condition should try

  • Step aerobics
  • Water aerobics
  • Walking
  • Tai Chi and low impact martial arts
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Swimming

So there are no excuses for not trying low-impact exercise to get into the groove. The good about regular exercise is that it makes you feel just plain good. It will help to control your blood glucose levels and protect your body as you strengthen your muscles. Your heart and lungs will get a work out and perform better, keeping you the young person you know you are. The endorphins you make will help you feel good, that is, raise your mood.

To tell the truth, a day without exercise will become a day that has less sunshine. But, and here’s the but that will make you know that you have medical problems; you must see your physician regularly when you exercise and as important, before you start a program. You must know how to deal with a hypoglycemic event if you take a medication that has that side effect.

You need to know which exercises are best for you and your long- and short-term goals. These should be discussed with your health care team so you are all on the same page. Climbing a mountain may be out of the question for someone with diabetic neuropathy of the feet, but hiking may be OK. It will depend on you and your health.

If you begin an exercise program, make sure you have shared what you look like if you are having an insulin event or become hypoglycemic. Make sure you know exactly how much carbohydrate to ingest to raise your blood glucose level.

My friends carry glucose tablets when we go on hard hikes or try something new, but then so do I. I also know my blood glucose levels before I begin any class whether it is high or low-impact.

If I begin to feel “funny,” I stop and retake it. My friends have come to my rescue more times than I can say when I have become unaware of my surroundings and they know I am becoming hypoglycemic. They know never to over-treat the event as, even with a very low blood glucose level, I know not to eat a candy bar or many glucose tablets. Low impact classes take some of these problems away as your heart will probably not beat as fast as in a moderate-impact class.

Now for even better news. You can join a moderate-impact class and just modify the movements. Any instructor worth his or her salt will share these modifications as they know that many beginner students start at this level. They certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt in their class as this will be bad for their bottom line. All you have to do is to ask for these modifications to be shown during each new movement.

The news is all good, so don’t delay. Take care of your self. One of the themes of this month’s magazine is to be part of the cure. Exercise may not be a cure for everyone, but research has shown that losing weight for type 2 diabetics can decrease the need for medication.

Why not give it a try? And for those of us with type 1 diabetes and type 2 who need medications, exercise is necessary for our continued health. Either way, exercise is something we all should participate in. Take care, readers, and go for it.