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High and low impact sports: which one is best for you?

The impact that exercise produces on our body, on bones and joints, is an important concept that must be taken into account when deciding to practice a certain activity. Learn about high and low impact sports and how they affect your health and fitness.

When walking, running or jumping, our feet separate for a few seconds from the ground and, when we step again, they receive, with multiplied force, all the weight of the body when falling. This impact, more or less intense, and its repercussions on the tendons and ligaments of the ankles or knees and on bone structures such as the hip or spine, is what makes a sport be considered of greater or lesser impact.

Tips for choosing between high-impact or low-impact exercise

Age, general physical condition and the presence or absence of certain ailments or specific circumstances, such as an injury or the fact of being pregnant, are factors that must be considered before opting for some exercises or others. In general, low-impact sports are those that do not involve rough contact with the ground when stepping. Walking, cycling or swimming are three of the activities that are included in this category along with other disciplines such as Pilates or Tai chi.

It must be clarified that the fact of being low impact does not mean that they cannot be an intense exercise. The cycling or swimming are sports that can be practiced at the highest level and become really demanding. Burning calories and fat, building muscle and getting into optimal physical shape is as possible with them as with high-impact sports. In reality, the important difference lies only in the degree of force with which our feet step on a certain surface over and over again.

On the other hand, all those activities that involve jumping or running, such as  running , tennis or team sports ( football , basketball , volleyball …) are high-impact sports whose effects must be taken into account especially in certain cases, for example :

  • If the doctor advises against joint or spinal related diseases or ailments (low back pain, scoliosis…), since a high impact could aggravate them.
  • If there are bad tread problems. Supporting the foot correctly is essential in sports with rough contact and continuous contact with the ground. If there is poor support, it is important to correct it before playing high impact sports to avoid possible damage to the toes, heels or arch of the foot.
  • If you are recovering from an injury or are returning to sports after a long season without exercise. In general, high-impact sports require minimal physical fitness and, if you are a beginner, better start with a low-impact sport. If you prefer a tall one, remember that you should always start the activity with due precautions, gradually increasing the effort.

Which exercise is the most recommended, the high impact or the low impact one?

There are no “good” and “bad” sports. Physical activity is always healthy if the appropriate one is chosen in each case and carried out at the appropriate level. The point is to take advantage of the many benefits of playing sports and never make exercise a challenge that puts your own health at risk.

If there is no medical prescription that advises against it, you can opt for both high-impact sports and those with medium, low or no impact. It is not always necessary to choose. A good idea is also to combine them in alternate sessions of cross training: running + swimming, cross fit + cycling, aerobic training in the gym (jumps, treadmill, stepping) + hiking only in those cases where there is a limiting reason Sports practice, temporarily or permanently, you should decide on low-impact sports, with which you can also take care of yourself and stay in top shape.

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