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Aerobic exercise involves sustained periods of movement that involve major muscle groups. Running, swimming, and bicycling are all forms of aerobic exercise. Low impact aerobics are designed to allow aerobic exercise without overusing muscle groups that may be subject to stress or injury. Some health experts recommend low impact aerobics for people with health conditions that may increase risk of injury.
Low impact aerobics are meant to give a person a cardiovascular and muscle-toning workout without risking injury due to intense stress on the joints, tendons and muscles. Typically, students in a low impact class are encouraged to make large movements to avoid straining joints, and to keep one foot on the floor at all times. Teachers lead students through a series of rhythmic movements, often set to music, that increase heart rate and provide toning without using highly repetitive motions such as jogging.
People just beginning to exercise may want to try low impact workouts for the first few weeks or months of a training program. If muscles have not been exercised regularly in a long time, injury or strain may occur if heavy impact exercise is employed immediately. By gradually working up to high level running or biking, a person can protect themselves both from injury and from the derailment of his or her brand new exercise routine.
Certain health conditions can greatly impede the ability to begin or maintain a healthy exercise routine. Obesity and pregnancy can deplete the body's capability to withstand high impact exercise, as extra weight greatly increases the pressure placed on bones and joints at impact. Bone density problems, such as those associated with diabetes, osteoporosis, or other degenerative conditions, can weaken bones and muscles making them easier to injure or even break. People with old or chronic injuries may also be advised to avoid high impact workouts, as there is a good chance that re-injury may occur.
Low impact aerobics provide an alternative form of exercise for those with debilitating conditions. Some health experts recommend forms of low impact exercise as being better overall, as even perfectly healthy people may develop joint or muscle problems after the repeated strain of many years of high impact activity. By raising heart rate without excess strain, some experts believe a person can get all of the benefits of a high impact workout without the increased potential for injury.
Many gyms and dance studios offer low impact aerobics classes on a weekly basis. At the beginning of a workout program or after an injury, even these classes may cause some strain or injury. Consult with the teacher about modifications to make the movements easier if strain or long-lasting pain occurs after the first class. For those who prefer working out alone, consider swimming routines or using workout machines that greatly lower impact through cushioning or adjusting movement, such as elliptical trainers.