40s Fitness: High vs. Low Impact

Perhaps you’re not feeling quite as spry as you used to, or perhaps, like me, you feel pretty much exactly the same as you always have … until the day after you work out. High impact workouts have been making a comeback lately with programs such as P90X, CrossFit, and even Zumba. But is this the kind of activity the 40-something crowd can handle?

What is the Difference Between High and Low Impact Workouts?

Low impact means you’re staying close to the ground with at least one foot planted at all times. This doesn’t mean you’re doing a wussy workout, but it does mean you’re not jarring your body with as much impact. Picture the difference between jumping jacks versus a squat.  Both are killer moves, but by going airborne on the jumping jacks, you impact through your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back; squats have zero since your feet don’t leave the ground.

High Impact Workouts Get You Sweating Quickly

A high impact workout is often a short cut for a trainer to get you sweating faster. It is possible to create a low impact workout that’s as challenging as a high impact one, but it takes a little more creativity on the part of the trainer. Busting out burpees doesn’t take a lot of thought, and yes, you’ll be dripping in sweat in literally seconds … Coming up with a squat routine that, let’s say, includes a side kick takes more work and cueing on the part of the trainer.

Feel the Burn Means Feel the Ice

If you have sore joints after a high impact workout, you’ve probably done too much and you should ice down to be on the safe side. As we get older our joints are a wee bit more prone to inflammation. This could be due to the beginning of arthritis or it could just be the normal wear and tear that happens as we age. Instead of “manning up” and repeating the same workout again, think about how you can modify for the next time so it’s still challenging but also a little easier on your joints.

Don’t Mess With Your Back

High impact workouts will exert more force through your vertebrae. If your spine can handle it, great, keep doing what you’re doing. But if you feel tight or sore the next day, back pain is nothing to fool around with. Back off and modify your exercises so you don’t have to find a chiropractor!

Trainers Tend to Train Their Own Generation

When I was in my 20s, I was a group exercise instructor and I was a cardio bunny. Bouncing up and down like crazy and shouting at everyone to “Go harder!” Now, not so much … You can find great trainers at every age, but remember, the 20-somethings haven’t met the aches and pains of their 40s yet. If you love your trainer but a recent workout tweaked something, speak up and let them modify it for you.  A good trainer will take this into account with a smile and kick your butt even harder, but safer, next time.

Honestly, one of the main reasons why I designed my Body Physica: Intense workout is to provide high intensity interval training in a way that would push your heart rate to the safe upper limits, but still be easy on the joints. Mostly because, um, I can’t hop around like a cardio bunny anymore. But hey, neither can Jane Fonda.

How has your fitness routine changed as you have gotten older? Have you swapped some high impact activities for lower impact options?  Traded the running shoes for a bike saddle? I’d love to hear how you’ve grown over the years and what high impact activities you miss …