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Low-intensity workouts can be safe and just as effective

Choose low-impact workouts if you are injured, pregnant or post-natal, or feel the need for some active recovery

Pilates help with recovery and building core strength
Pilates help with recovery and building core strength (iStock)

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We all know that exercise is beneficial for health, but sometimes, people can over-exert themselves, leading to burnout and maybe even injury. Sometimes you need exercise to recover from an illness but it is not practically possible to do strenuous exercises. This is where slower movements and low-impact workouts turn out to be more effective.

Even for those who love high-impact exercise routines, it can be challenging to sustain these for a long time, so having a low-impact workout option, like Pilates or yoga, can be a smart addition to your routine. Pilates instructor Ashima Rangi, 28, from Kolkata says, “The purpose or goal of the individual dictates the intensity at which they should be exercising. If the goals are performance-based, then a high intensity exercise schedule would be more beneficial, but if the goal is rehabilitation after an injury, a low-intensity exercises schedule would be better. For someone who is just about starting their fitness regime, starting with an intensity that won't intimidate or demotivate them is a good idea. The idea is to create a healthy relationship with exercise first and gradually increase the intensity with the help of a fitness expert.”

Relationship coach Ceza Ouzounian, 39, from Glasgow, UK agrees. She hurt her back 12 years ago while doing capoeira, a form of martial arts and now she prefers slower exercises like Pilates. “Doing Pilates has helped me strengthen my back. Since I’ve been doing slower movements, I have been able to heal my back. I think Pilates is very effective because I get to learn how to use my muscles correctly and make sure the right muscles are working at the right time for the right exercise, which means over time you can build up to harder movements without risk of injury. Not only do I feel stronger and more flexible, but my body is more mobile than it has ever been,” she says.

The key to getting stronger, and improving your fitness routine is to slow down. Low-impact workouts can expedite recovery and avert injury. They work well if you are injured, pregnant or post-natal or sore and in need of some active recovery. Recovery is equally important as intense workouts and overtraining can increase the chances of injury.

Pre and post-natal coach and founder of Kolkata-based online fitness platform Bump-2-Burpees Eshita Dhingra Verma is a new mother. “Being four months postpartum, I have learnt that focusing on light movements, core rehab and pelvic floor strengthening are more important than high intensity workouts. Jumping into anything intensive too soon can be more detrimental than beneficial as it can result in urinary incontinence, pelvis discomfort, joint pain or injury. It is absolutely critical to focus on proper recovery instead,” she says.

Nishha Mukhopadhyay, a 32-year-old media professional from Mumbai, gets a work out in at least four days a week. “Earlier I would work out six days a week at the gym and my body would be too exhausted for anything else. After getting diagnosed with PCOS, my nutritionist recommended slower weighted workouts 3-4 days a week, which not only helped me lose weight faster but made sure I wasn’t too tired for other things,” she says.

Personal trainer Rani Gonsalves from Bengaluru agrees. “Rest helps your blood cells get oxygen back in them and be ready for the next workout. This also helps to keep your stress hormones low so your body is not surging with cortisol after your workout.” Studies show that increased cortisol can actually lead to weight gain, specifically in the midsection. “On the other hand, lightweight training workouts improve metabolism as well as insulin resistance and maintain healthy cortisol levels as well,” says Gonsalves.

Low and behold

Try these low-impact workouts

WALKING: Regular brisk walking helps manage weight, mood and insulin levels. Plus, it’s free.

SWIMMING: Especially good for those recovering from back injuries

PILATES: Helps develop core strength, elevates mood

BARRE: This ballet-inspired exercise method focuses on small movements, and on mobility and flexibility

KINETIC STRETCHING: This low-impact exercise technique involves taking a joint through its full range of motion

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