High-impact activities can do wonders for your overall health, but the constant pounding can be hard on your joints, including those in your feet and ankles. Indeed, they endure a tremendous amount of stress as your feet repeatedly hit the ground when you run, jump, or sprint.
And though there is no doubt that high-impact workouts can burn a lot of calories in little time, when that high intensity comes in the form of running, jumping, or sprinting, you are only as strong as your weakest link – and for many of us that means our feet, ankles, knees, and even back. Strain and impact forces are amplified during high-intensity workouts, and sudden force can cause damage to the joint cushions, tendons, and muscles in those areas of the body.
This is especially true as you age, or if you have already experienced previous injuries – in these cases your musculoskeletal frame is not as durable or limber as it once was.
But the good news is that you can increase strength and flexibility from head to toe without subjecting your body to intense exercising, and you can raise your heart rate and rev your metabolism without the constant impact that comes with rigorous workout routines. All you have to do is switch your running routine, sports of choice, or dance sessions for highly effective – but gentler – low-impact exercises.
Not sure which exercises fall in the low-impact category? Well, we have a great list of relatively gentle workouts that your feet and ankles – and your waistline – will love. What’s best, you can find all of these low-impact activity options in the greater Austin community.
Keep in mind: Just because a workout is considered low-impact doesn’t mean that you are 100 percent safe from injury. To minimize your chances of injury, start your exercise sessions slowly. Doing so will warm up your muscles and joints before they have to endure strain.
Take a Walk
Simply walking is actually one of the most popular low-impact exercises you can choose. For one, it won’t cost you a penny – no entry fees, no monthly payments. Though we do recommend you invest in a comfortable and supportive pair of walking shoes. And when the weather keeps you from getting out there for a stroll, you can always hop on a treadmill indoors.
Now, if you are looking for a more scenic route, then you can always take a walk through the Barton Creek Greenbelt. There you will find an amazing 8-mile-long trail that weaves all throughout the city. You can pick from the countless entrances to start your walk, and each stretch of the Greenbelt has something more exciting and unique than the next!
From swimming holes to rock climbing to hiking to biking – at Barton Creek Greenbelt, you will find plenty of options as you walk along. Some of the most notable entrances include: Twin and Sculpture Falls, Gus Fruh, and Barton Springs Pool.
Take a Hike
Now, if you are looking to upgrade your walks, you can take a hike instead! But to keep it low-impact, make sure you start with low-grade terrain and that you are equipped with the right footwear for the job.
For a beautiful hiking experience in Austin, you can head to Mount Bonnell in the western part of the city. At 785 feet tall, Mount Bonnell is the highest point in Austin. It is the perfect place to go when you are looking for a scenic route that is also less strenuous than many hiking trails. There you can climb 106 steps to the hilltop park that overlooks Lake Austin and all the gorgeous homes that are perched alongside it.
So, are you ready to strap on those boots and hit the woods? Well, get to it. And don’t forget to keep in mind all the hiking do’s and don’ts.
Go for a Swim
Did you know that water is nearly 800 times denser than air? And while swimming is the ultimate low-impact workout, it is anything but easy to propel your body from one side of the pool to the other and back.
In fact, researchers found that those who swam three times a week for 6 months lost more weight, improved their body composition, slimmed their hips and waist, and improved their cholesterol levels better than those who performed a similar walking program for the same time. Surprising, huh?
So, if you are looking to swim a few laps, then Big Stacy is a good option. It is a free pool open to the public in South Austin near Oltorf. The pool is naturally heated by spring-fed water, which feels great! There is a small grassy area to sit and some shade coverage. Not to mention that at all times you will find lifeguards on duty, the pool features deep and shallow ends, and there are plenty of lanes for lap swimming.
Go for a Bike Ride
Bicycling and stationary cycling are great exercises that are also easy on your joints. And an awesome place to hop on a bike and pedal away is the Hike and Bike Trail.
This trail features 10 miles of winding trails along Lady Bird Lake and beautiful downtown views at the Pedestrian Crossing Bridge. There you can even snap a selfie at the Stevie Ray Vaughan memorial at Auditorium Shores or opt for a paddleboard rental along the newly paved Boardwalk.
When the weather is trying to keep you indoors, you can always try a group cycle class. But keep in mind that even though these classes can help you burn a lot of calories, some might be too vigorous for the average beginner. So if you are just starting out, cycle at a pace that feels comfortable to you rather than trying to keep up with the rest of the class.
Strike a Yoga Pose
We know – yoga may not be the most “athletic” exercise option, but even the NFL pros are doing it! And this ancient practice will definitely have you feeling the burn – without feeling the pain. Yoga incorporates bodyweight exercises and balance tests that will challenge your body. Not to mention that it’s a great way to improve flexibility and strength, as well as alleviate joint pain.
And the good news is that no matter if you live North, South, or somewhere in between, Black Swan Yoga has a studio near you. All of their locations offer fun, donation-based classes with an upbeat soundtrack and funky fresh lighting. Instructors are encouraged to express themselves in their practice, so no class is ever the same! Their Power Yoga sessions are a community favorite, but you will want to have a bit of a beginner experience under your belt before you start on that.
Row the Boat
Though you are sitting most of the time, rowing will provide a total body workout that tones your arms, legs, and core, and improves your upper back strength and posture. And all of this while you burn nearly 500 calories an hour!
At Rowing Dock, you will find everything you need to enjoy a day of paddleboarding, canoeing, and kayaking in Austin. The dock is located on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, just west of Zilker Park – the ideal location for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding in Austin. You can head westward on Lady Bird Lake to explore the quiet beauty of the West End and circle around Red Bud Isle. Or you can paddle east to cruise through the Barton Creek inlet and take in the cityscape of downtown Austin.
But make sure to use proper rowing technique. Power the main part of the stroke with your legs, then pull through with your arms and back to finish the stroke to use maximum muscle and keep your arms from wearing out before you are done working out.
Contact Us Today!
If you have any questions about which low-impact exercises are best for you, or if you would like to schedule an appointment at our Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, just give us a call at (512) 328-8900 or simply fill out our contact form online.