Low-impact exercises may not burn as much calories as a HIIT workout or help you gain a beach bod, but a growing number of people have turned to pilates, yoga and even swimming as alternative exercises to heal injuries and chronic pains. That said, incorporating them into an active fitness regime may help you align your mental, spiritual and physical state, leaving you with a rewarding sense of calmness.
We dive into the benefits of these low-impact exercises and why you should give them a try!
The benefits of Pilates extend beyond its core-strengthening properties. If practised regularly, Pilates is a good rehabilitation tool that integrates physical exercise with body awareness. Don’t let its simplicity fool you – Pilates focuses on working the smaller muscle groups, and overtime addresses posture, breathing and spinal alignment.
It is for this very reason that Pilates can help to strengthen the entire body, lengthen the spine and prevent injuries by improving overall body awareness. For anyone suffering from pain at their joints, there are modifications that can be done to Pilates exercises that emphasise on proper shoulder placement as well as the mobilisation of the injured joints.
If you are trying Pilates for the first time, give Mat Pilates a try! While it is harder than machine-based Pilates, it ensures that you engage your bodyweight and work the right muscles for maximum effectiveness.
Compared to yoga and Pilates, swimming burns the most calories per session as it is considered a form of cardio. However, because of the large body of water that supports your weight, it ensures that you can get a good workout without straining your joints. This is why swimming is often the recommended sport for anyone with injuries, at an older age or looking to shed body fat.
Besides getting the benefits of cardio, picking up swimming also helps to improve your overall flexibility! With each stroke you take in your lap, your arms, legs and muscles are extending in isolation, helping to strengthen muscles that you would normally miss in other gym sessions or workouts. It is also a safe workout for anyone with spinal injuries, as swimming against the resistance helps the muscles surrounding your spine strengthen, providing relief for anyone suffering from such conditions.
Most importantly, swimming can help to improve your breathing and mental health, too. As each stroke is linked with your breath, taking up the sport forces you to learn proper breathing techniques, increase your lung capacity and improve your stamina. At the same time, just one session can help to boost happy endorphins in your system and at the same time, gives you the much deserved mental space.
A trendy workout popular with city dwellers, the yoga practise is seen both as an outlet to stretch your stresses away and provide relief for chronic and acute pains throughout the body. And there are sufficient studies to prove it too!
Researchers have found that practising easy, gentle yoga twice a week for two months has helped reduce inflammation markers in heart failure patients by 25%! The ancient practise has also changed the way anyone deals with stressful situations, helping to reduce anxiety, stress, depression and even insomnia.
While the list of benefits goes on, one of the biggest benefits of yoga is instilling balance. Yoga can be a spiritual practice that allows our minds to relax, and hearts to open. Its slow pace allows you to pay more attention to your breathing as you glide through different asanas (firm, balanced postures). As the practise is adaptable, it is also perfectly safe for pregnant women.
Excited to kickstart your yoga practise? As with any workout, yoga can be challenging and depending on how flexible or skilled you are, going for beginner classes will certainly help. Lookout for Hatha or Yin yoga classes to get a grasp of the practise, and gradually work your way through advanced classes to take your practise further!