High Impact versus Low Impact

April 19th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

I do a lot of high-impact exercise and I’ve paid a price for it already when I developed a stress fracture in my lower leg as a result of too much running too quickly seven years ago.  It meant I had to do NO impact for a few months and ease my way back into impact slowly to build strength for the long haul.

I’ve learned to mix up my high impact exercise days with low impact exercise days so that I can treat my body to strong bones and healthy joints. 

So what’s the difference between low impact and high impact?  I’ll steal from an expert to explain it:


The Differences between High Impact and Low Impact Exercise

High impact exercise is when both feet come off of the ground at the same time. Good examples of high impact exercises are jumping jacks, jumping rope, running or jogging on a treadmill (or outdoors), and performing plyometric exercises. High impact activities also include exercise classes which involve jumping, leaping or jogging in place. Doing high impact exercise puts you at greater risk of injury, especially if you’re just starting out.

Comparatively, low impact exercise is when one foot is on the ground at all times. Walking is a great example and also one of the most popular forms of low impact activity.  Unlike running or jogging, when you walk, you always have one foot touching the ground.  Other examples of low impact exercise are working out on an elliptical machine, cycling, swimming, low impact aerobics and using a rowing machine.  It’s important to realize that low impact doesn’t mean low intensity ( unless purposely designed to be so) because you can still get an intense workout keeping both feet on the ground.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type of Exercise?

Both high impact and low impact workouts have their advantages and disadvantages.  One of the best advantages of high impact workouts is the benefit it has for bone health. High impact exercise helps to increase bone mineral density more than low impact exercise does. This means high impact is better for preventing osteoporosis.  High impact activities also usually allow you to raise your heart rate faster. This is a great advantage if you don’t want to spend a lot of time exercising.

The disadvantage of high impact activity is that it increases the risk of injuries and overuse syndromes, especially if you don’t allow your body adequate time to recover between workouts. The risk of stress fractures and tendonitis is greater with high impact exercise.

Low impact workouts are ideal if you are overweight, have joint problems or injuries that may be aggravated by running or jumping. This is because low impact exercises like walking or cycling place significantly less force on the body than high impact workouts like running or plyometrics.  Low impact activities are also ideal for someone new to working out.  The less jarring exercises are kinder to the unconditioned frame of a beginner.


We could all stand to mix things up a bit when it comes to our exercise habits… especially if it means creating an exercise habit! 

Keep the amount of impact your body can handle in mind as you search for and find and enjoy the perfect fitness challenge for yourself!!

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