“No pain, no gain!”
“Extreme workouts equal extreme results!”
“If it doesn’t hurt, you’re wasting your time!”
These are the kinds of exclamations you may hear at the gym and read about in fitness magazines. But some people have tendon and joint issues that prevent intense exercising.
And beginners often aren’t at a level of fitness where pushing muscles hard will be helpful. In fact, for many, starting off too tough can lead to injury, derailing a brand new workout program completely.
This means that starting slow and low may actually be the best way to go, especially for older folks who don’t heal as quickly as they used to, or those who haven’t worked out in a long time.
Below are 6 benefits of low-intensity exercise.
1. Weight Loss—
Yes, it is entirely possible to lose weight with a low-intensity regimen. This is because when you’re doing an exercise gentle enough to allow a longer workout, you’re giving your body the opportunity to use up more calories.
High-impact, extreme exercises may burn more calories in direct comparison, but intense activity can only be done for a short period of time. Once you’re exhausted, the workout is over… and so is the calorie burning.
2. Less Injury—
You’re into your new regimen, you’re working out consistently, and then… BOOM. You push yourself too hard and injure a muscle or tendon. Now you’re sidelined, watching all your progress disappear – and nothing demotivates like having to wait weeks for the body to heal.
With low-intensity exercise, you can avoid this frustrating and discouraging scenario. By starting slowly and giving muscles a chance to build at a safe pace, you reduce the chance of physical setbacks, helping you stick with the plan.
3. More Motivation—
Consistency is one of the most important factors for getting results from exercise, yet one of the hardest to maintain; and it’s difficult to look forward to a particularly grueling routine.
For this reason, finding an enjoyable, less strenuous form of exercise can keep us motivated by alleviating stress without unpleasant physical exertion.
An hour of brisk walking on a nature trail feels better than straining to lift heavy things or doing sprints to the point of fatigue, making us more likely to look forward to the activity, rather than dreading it.
4. Extra Endurance—
Are you a tortoise, or are you a hare?
High-intensity exercises are a faster way to build muscle mass, obviously, but low-intensity exercise can be done for a much longer time, building endurance, heart and lung strength.
This means the elderly gentleman who can walk quickly on the treadmill for an hour may actually be in better cardiovascular shape than the young muscular fellow who can bench press large amounts of weight.
5. Less Inflammation—
If you have joint pain or certain tendons and muscles that are easily ruptured, high-intensity exercise is not your friend. The more pressure and impact you put on the body, the more you’ll pay the next day.
While there are natural anti-inflammatories like Omega-3 fatty acids and good old ibuprofen, the best way to reduce inflammation is to avoid inflicting it on the body in the first place.
By choosing a low-impact, mild form of exercise such as yoga, walking, swimming, or cycling, you can obtain the calorie burning and health benefits of regular exercise without hurting your body.
6. Less Health Problems—
In addition to lessening inflammation and increasing endurance, low-intensity exercise has been proven to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as reducing the risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.
Longer, easier exercise sessions have also been shown to reduce appetite by decreasing hunger hormones released by more demanding forms of exercise.
Research has shown that it is entirely possible to get excellent results from a low-intensity workout regimen.
In one study, participants did only stretching and gentle exercises for 90 days, with positive effects such as weight loss, reduction of stress, better sleep, lower blood pressure and more. (Source: University of Queensland in Australia.)
Another study found that simply not being sedentary (i.e. standing, moving around rather than sitting) improved lipid and insulin levels better than an hour of intense daily exercise. (Source: Hans Savelberg and colleagues, Maastricht University.)
If you are a beginner, have back, joint or tendon issues, or simply seek a gentle workout routine, don’t listen to those who tell you low-intensity exercises can’t get you in shape. Find the fitness regimen that’s right for you, and enjoy your easy exercise.