When I quit smoking some years back my appetite for food picked up and I started to pack on the pounds. So I took up jogging to get in better shape. But that had its own problems; running can really beat up your body - your feet, your knees, your hips.
So I cast about for something a little safer, and came up with bicycling. Granted, it doesn’t deliver quite the same level of cardiovascular workout that jogging affords. But it can still be a pretty decent workout, and it’s a decent way to see the countryside.
There are plenty of safe, low-impact exercise and physical conditioning routines you can take up to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Take walking, for instance, the low-impact response to jogging. England’s Stroke Association figures a daily 30-minute walk cuts your risk of a stroke by a quarter. It lowers your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, while boosting HDL (good) cholesterol. It strengthens your heart, helps you lose weight and elevates your mood and energy level.
More and more communities are incorporating bike and walking paths into their development plans, so you have a way of getting around that doesn’t tangle with cars. But if you live outside the Sun Belt you might be wary of setting out along any pathway on a snowy, freezing January day. That’s where shopping malls come in handy, as they welcome walkers, especially in the mornings. And gyms seem to be everywhere these days, so when a mall won’t do, there’s always a tread mill nearby. Gyms also offer a wintertime substitute for biking – a stationery bike.
A lot of gyms offer elliptical trainers, which more or less keep your whole body in motion as you constantly peddle while moving your arms back and forth on poles attached to those pedals. Most ellipticals have a tension controller, so you can adjust the pedals and arms to offer more resistance for a more strenuous workout. And all the while, your feet never leave the pedal, so you’re not banging up your hips or knees.
But why stop there? Rowing machines, though not as common, offer a great workout. They’re sort of a sitting-down version of an elliptical, since they keep most of your body in continual motion. Likewise, they have tensioners that allow you to adjust the difficulty level of the exercise.
You’ll also find a lot of helpful resistance in water. And swimming offers a great way to exercise at a very low impact level, because of the bouyance effects of water.
And then there is yoga. I always thought of it as more of a mental and spiritual exercise. Granted, there are those components, but you can also find a yoga class that will provide quite a lot of physical exertion, as well. My daughter amps up her yoga instruction with a class in hot yoga. Here, they crank up the thermostat in the yoga room – maybe 100 degrees - so you sweat a lot during a session. You shed not only some unneeded water weight but releasing toxins from your body, to boot.
Indoors or out, in a pool or drydocked at a rowing machine, you have opportunities aplenty to tone your muscles, improve your heart health, and safely stay fit.