Are Low-Impact Workouts Better For You Than Intense Cardio?

Over the past few years, low-impact workouts seem to have taken a back seat to more intense workouts that include HIIT and CrossFit, but they still offer a variety of health benefits. While more intense cardio boasts more of a calorie burn, they might be harming your body in ways you might not know.

All forms of exercise put the body under stress, triggering the release of cortisol, the body's stress hormone. This stress is good for strengthening muscles and bones while improving cardiovascular health. Exercise helps your body manage blood sugar levels while also improving your mood and increasing your chances of living longer (via MedLine Plus).

However, not all exercise is the same, and there is such a thing as too much when it comes to intense cardio. High-intensity workouts are tough on the body, meaning they can cause joint pain. Running, jumping jacks, and plyometrics are examples of high-impact exercises. 

Low-impact exercises put less stress on your body

While exercise usually helps the body regulate stress, there is such a thing as too much stress, which can be exacerbated by too much high-impact exercise. Too much stress spikes cortisol levels, which can trigger higher insulin levels, cause sleep disturbances, digestive problems, and sugar cravings (via WebMD). Other signs of too much cortisol include mood changes, reduced libido, trouble sleeping, fatigue, headaches, and anxiety (via Shape).

Low-impact exercises are a valuable alternative to higher-impact workouts because they put less wear and tear on your body and adrenal gland. These kinds of exercises are generally easier on your joints because they do not involve any kind of jumping, and one foot is almost always on the ground. Examples include walking, swimming, yoga, some forms of aerobics, and bicycling.

The benefits of low-impact exercise include not only reduced stress, but also improved insulin sensitivity, which can help control diabetes. In addition, you can still burn fat with a low-impact workout routine. A study also showed that there was no difference between high-impact and low-impact exercises when it came to losing fat (via Livestrong).