I’ve been training on and off consistently for approximately 8 years now. Things became serious on the countdown to my wedding.
I would train most days with a level of consistency and intensity which I couldn’t match now. Somedays I would do both resistance and cardiovascular training. But this wasn’t sustainable and was very much milestone-driven. Besides I got far too lean and more often than not felt cold due to lack of body fat!
Fast forward 8 years, two house moves, two large scale extensions and two children and my schedule is a little busier (I am also a little heavier). I have far more of an active life to balance. Children are wonderful but they tend to absorb any free time you have. They are sponges in that they crave your attention in the same way a sponge soaks up water. It’s a good thing and it’s something you should embrace.
But what about your own health and well being? For a while, it got pushed to the back burner. In the midst of a national lockdown, a new baby and extension (Don’t recommend this trilogy personally) exercise was nudged to the wayside. There was just so much going on for this to take priority.
Thankfully, we made it out the other side and life is a little sweeter now. But the demands of parenthood still exist so the importance of fitness needs to be balanced with family life. As an individual, I rely on exercise for my general well being and mental health (as well as feeling good about myself). Training daily made me feel great and it’s something I wanted to return to.
Ultimately the demands of life make this a little more difficult now with dependables so the approach is a little different.
Enter low-impact training.
What is low impact training?
Low-impact training/exercises apply less force to the joints and are more gentle on the joints and muscles.
Low impact exercises allow you to exercise regularly without adding extra stress on joints and tendons. Society has become all about doing things to excess and exercise is no exception. But with excess comes injury and to maintain the benefits of exercise you need to do it as consistently as possible.
Why it matters as you get older?
As you get older things typically become harder. You have more health concerns, your body is on a decline and you should do all you can to protect it. Even at 36, I feel the strain far more than I did when I was in my 20s. If you have kids, a demanding job or perhaps both then you will feel it even more.
The vast majority don’t need to go all out with exercise. The benefits; whether it’s physically or mentally can be achieved with routine and consistency. Couple this with something which is low impact which in turn causes fewer injuries you will be able to maximise how often you train without feeling the strain.
Pros of low impact training:
There’s a bucket load of pros when it comes to low-impact training; many of which I am benefitting from now.
Having recently read Atomic Habits by James Clear (highly recommend) I learnt about the importance of habits and forming them. Low impact training enables you to keep training without injuries and fatigue (especially when you switch up the type of training you do).
Having read the book I realised I was making excuses for missing workouts.
‘I don’t have enough time’
‘I don’t have the right equipment’
‘I’m too tired’
Getting started is really tough but once the habit is formed it’s very hard to break it. Low impact training has enabled me to form this habit and stick to it.
Perhaps one of the driving reasons for this way of exercising. Injuries prevent you from training and as a result, you may miss a sustained period of training. When I used to lift heavy weights I used to suffer far more injuries than I do now. That could have been down to poor form or just the nature of weight training but that’s kind of the point!
Low impact training prevents injuries and enables you to train consistently. As I’ve grown older, have dependables and far more responsibilities my goals from exercise have changed.
‘All the gear and no idea’ is the phrase commonly coined by those in the UK. It basically means you have all the equipment but no real plan or understanding of what to do with it.
I think this is largely what happens when people start their fitness journey. They believe they need all the equipment before getting started. We saw globally the sales of Peletons skyrocketed within lockdowns.
With low impact training, two of my favourite activities in bodyweight exercises and walking can be done with no upfront cost (although eventually, you may want to purchase some nice walking shoes).
Resistance bands are another favourite of mine and you can pick up a set for less than £30. Fantastic for beginners as well as accessible for any house size.
Cycling although not the cheapest and easiest to store is still an inexpensive activity compared to gym memberships. You can pick up a second-hand bike for less than £100 which would be a fantastic starter bike. Once you become familiar with cycling you can upgrade to a more robust option.
The type of low impact training I recommend is also inexpensive and has a low barrier to entry.
Can be done anywhere:
One of the primary reasons for delving into low-impact training was that it can largely be done anywhere (particularly the resistance side of things).
We had large scale renovation work at our property which meant I had to train in a different room day to day. Bodyweight and resistance band training made this easy. You need a very small amount of floor space (you could train in your bedroom, kitchen, anywhere really!).
Long term we have plans for extended travel in the school holidays and having developed my resistance training via bands and bodyweight I am easily able to transfer this elsewhere.
I know people who train regularly with weights at home who struggle to adapt when they go on holiday. The adaption and learning process is easy when your routine stays consistent wherever you are.
Types of low impact training
Currently, I have four favourite low-impact training routines which I do weekly. Not only do they vary the workout but also the intensity. I believe this is important when it comes to the longevity of your training. Many train for the ‘now’ vs developing a routine that can see them through adulthood.
I’ve always been into cycling but I’ve stepped this up over the past 2 years with my fascination with trail cycling. There’s actually nothing better than cycling within a traffic-free environment away from busy roads and within nature.
Trails tend to be disused railway lines or canal paths and typically wind alongside rolling fields. Immersed within nature it’s incredible for the body and mind.
Because your joints are not in contact with the ground the impact is low and I rarely have any type of injury with cycling. The beauty of which you can do at your own pace meaning it’s superb for all age categories.
Best of all you can also integrate it into your day to day life. Commuting, cycling to the shops, taking your kids to baby classes. All these can be done by bike (although unfortunately not away from traffic).
The bike is a versatile, low impact training machine.
Press-ups, body squats, sit-ups. Some of the most incredible full-body exercises are done with purely your body weight.
One of the routines I follow is 10 sets of 10 press-ups, squats and sit-ups (or planks). I love this routine as it can be done in the smallest of spaces yet it has a fantastic overall benefit to your body.
Some will say you won’t have the GAINZ you can get from weights but this isn’t the name of the game here. We are looking at building a lean, solid physique that you can maintain within the short, medium and long term.
I believe the hardest part about starting a bodyweight exercise regime is purely getting started. When you sign up for the gym you have to physically go to the gym whereas training at home requires discipline. But for the vast majority, it’s all your need to stay in shape. If you need further inspiration then stick on Youtube as there are thousands of routines you can follow.
Resistance band exercises:
In my opinion Resistance bands are the holy grail of resistance training for those who are training for health, well being and a lean, active physique. Brilliant for form (you can’t really cheat unlike with weights), excellent for preventing injury and are completely accessible for all.
You can take them anywhere and most come with adjustable handles so you can clip on additional bands to up the resistance.
I’ve heard from people they can’t get on with them but I strongly recommend they take some time to study some of the excellent workouts you can do. And again I come back to my favourite word…’ consistency’. Need to spend a week away from home and still want to train? No problem, stick them in the bag and go about your day.
Resistance bands are an incredible training tool and will be useful to you as you get older too. Best of all? They are cheap as chips!
If you are fortunate enough to be able-bodied and have the ability to walk then you essentially have one of the best exercises you can ask for waiting to be utilised.
Walking is brilliant for both your physical and mental health. The ability to see the world by utilising your body at your own pace, in your own time is wonderful.
It can also make your heart healthier, maintain or lose weight, improve muscle endurance and much more.
I love activities that can be integrated with the family. If I can get the health benefit (as well as my kids) alongside spending quality time with the people I love then it’s a win win situation.
We tend to walk for enjoyment. For example, we may walk to the local country park or a nearby play park. Combining both also incentivises your children to want to do the walk also. I’ve never understood the rationale behind not integrating your exercise with time with your children. It’s a huge opportunity to get yourself active as well as the kids. What’s not to like?
What I love about walking is its versatility. You can for example walk long distances; perhaps on a trail or briskly as more of a cardio exercise. You may occasionally get sore feet however the injury impact of walking is low on the probability scale.
Best of all you can walk well into your more senior years. When out walking we always see those 70+ enjoying time outside.
What are the goals of low-impact training?
Goals and outcomes are personal to the individual but I can tell you a little about my own personal targets.
Mental well being:
During the first lockdown in the UK everyone’s favourite PE Teacher Joe Wicks commonly said ‘mental well being’ was his primary goal when exercising. I completely get it. I like to perform resistance training first thing in the morning. I wake up, have my coffee and then train. Sometimes this is just in my office while catching up with my favourite Youtuber.
It’s a ritual, a habit of sorts that I’ve grown to develop. When I exercise I feel like I am set up for the day; in the same way, people are once they’ve had a shower. It becomes a habit I ‘need’ as part of my day. On the occasions I miss a resistance session when I was supposed to do it I feel anxious for the rest of the day. Working from home no longer feels great and my concentration wavers.
Exercing regularly makes me a positive person. My glass is firmly half full when I’ve managed a good session (even if it’s a small one). I used to worry about perfecting my workouts and if Id had a sleepless night due to kids I would skip them. Now I do what I can and it makes a world of difference.
Now I’m in my mid 30’s a lot of my friends are already married so I only occasionally wear a suit. Thankfully I can still fit into my wedding suit! (9 years ago).
It’s a great feeling and one I want to maintain. Body composition and maintaining my size as I get older is hugely important. Of course, there may be slight fluctuations but the same jeans size, and the same suit make up some of my goals when exercising. I dislike the narrative that you just ‘accept’ more weight as you get older. I find myself saying the same ‘Oh, kids and carbs hey?’.
This may sound shallow but there are a whole host of reasons including my dislike of shopping, and the bullshit nature of fast fashion to name just a few.
Consistency and longevity:
If you look at some of the most successful people in the world their success is driven by consistency. They show up every single day.
On a lesser scale, I see the same for myself. I’ve built my life around being ‘quite good’ at a lot of things. For example, I am quite good at SEO, building websites, and marketing all of which enabled me to build and sell my own educational business. There are many, many people who are far better than me but ‘quite good’ is usually ‘good enough’.
At 36 my chances of becoming the World’s strongest man or cycling the Tour de France are near impossible but if I am healthy, in good shape and a role model for my kids (who hopefully they aspire to be like) then that’s enough for me.
I want to be consistent week after week and exercise, in the same way, I brush my teeth or empty the dishwasher. It’s a habit I just do.
Inspire my kids:
A lot of what you do as an adult is instilled in your kids. If you sit at home playing video games then your kid is more likely to be a gamer. If you bake a lot then it’s natural that they will take an interest in this. You are their role models after all!
My daughter is a strong cyclist. She’s 6 but can comfortably cycle a 6-mile round trip without feeling tired. She has great control also with her cycling. I think this is partially down to it being an activity we always did. From a young age, she was in the baby seat on our bikes. From her 4th birthday, she was cycling freely. It’s something we as a family value and it’s something I want my kids to do too.
Who is it suitable for?
Because it’s low-impact this type of training is suitable for all ages, ability levels and strengths. It’s very much beginner-friendly and can be progressed at the pace which works for you.
When I initially started cycling I would typically go out for less than half an hour. Now I can quite easily cycle for well over an hour. Although the distance is not my primary goal it does highlight the improvements in my cardiovascular capacity.
Whether you are young or of the older generation Low impact exercise is the type of exercise the vast majority should be focusing on. You will stay free of injury, it’s sustainable, can be varied and incredibly enjoyable. Best of all it’s an inexpensive way of reaching your fitness goals.