September 29, 2022

Why You Should Consider Low Impact Workouts

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Ann Marie Wakula, certified personal trainer and macro nutrition coach. Together, they discuss low impact workouts and why they’re worth adding to your workout routine.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • The difference between low and high impact workouts
  • Reasons for focusing on low impact workouts
  • If low impact workouts are just as effective as high impact workouts
  • Examples of low impact workouts you can start doing today

You can learn more about Ann Marie at her website, or Instagram page.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast episode, 115. Coming up, we discuss low impact workouts. And if they are as effective as high impact workouts.
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is a podcast that’s dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and wellbeing through small, healthy habits we can start right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. And every other week, we sit down with a certified expert and we discuss topics that cover nutrition, fitness, a whole lot more. And today there’s no sudden impacts. We just want to get the real story on this. This episode we’re diving deep into this idea of low impact workouts. Should they be something you consider adding to your workout regiment? With us today is a certified personal trainer and macro nutrition coach Ann Marie Wakula. Good to have you back.

Ann Marie Wakula:
So great to be here. I love chatting with you.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, it’s nice to see you. And I know that you’ve concentrated on a special focus being fit over 40, and while this notion of high impact versus low impact can tend to maybe be something that people think of is for older folks, older, meaning maybe being fit and over 40, that is not really the case, is it?

Ann Marie Wakula:
It’s not really the case.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Ann Marie Wakula:
You got to focus on low impact workouts at all ages, honestly.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and here’s the thing and I relate to this idea, I used to think back in the old days, I have a lot of rings in my tree. I used to think that if I didn’t hurt honest to goodness, if there isn’t blood squirting out of my knees or something like I didn’t get a good workout. And you fast forward after 25 years of jogging, a knee specialist, a joint specialist said to me, your left knee has got problems because you used to jog on pavement and the sidewalk. And she’s absolutely right. That’s what I did.

Ann Marie Wakula:
She is. I mean, what you do to your body at a young age will definitely affect how you feel later in life. No doubt.

Chuck Gaidica:
So the alternative for me, I mean, a lot of people still jog and I see people older than me that are still running. Right. So it may just be my personal thing. But I think part of it was, I didn’t always look for a track or I didn’t look for ways to even make my workout low impact. I could have done that too.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah. And I think that a lot of times, like you said, right in the beginning, people are looking to just sweat and walk away from their workout, feeling so exhausted and you haven’t worked out unless you’re sweating, sweating. That’s not necessarily the case. Low impact workouts could be things like such as swimming, right, but they can also be spinning and riding a bicycle. And that is very cardiovascularly challenging, but it’s also low impact.

Chuck Gaidica:
And what would we normally associate, even if we don’t think about it, Ann Marie as a high impact workout, what are those that we should be avoiding to make sure we’re not finding injuries now or down the road?

Ann Marie Wakula:
So high impact workouts are anything that involve running and jumping activities that cause great impact on the joints and on your feet and force on the bone. So when you think of high impact workouts, your feet are generally leaving the ground, right, and then creating force when you hit the ground again, both at the same time. So anything that’s low impact involves like stepping and walking and movements where your feet aren’t pounding against the ground.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. And I think that there are so many ways we sort of allow ourselves or we rope ourselves into doing these things. I remember our oldest daughter contacted both of my wife and myself and said, Hey, they’re doing a thing at the school. It’s out on the parking lot. It’s just, it’s an aerobics class and it’s outside because of the pandemic. And I’m thinking, oh, I’m all in for this. Well, I’m out there trying to do jumping jacks on the pavement. And for me it was a thing. So I can’t put enough pads down to make that work. So walk us through this idea of trying to discover ways that we can focus our energies and our minds on low impact workouts.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah. So let’s just take that for example, the jumping jacks on the pavement,

Chuck Gaidica:
Okay.

Ann Marie Wakula:
You could definitely go to a class that involves higher impact, but then if you can learn how to modify or ask an instructor how to modify, then you’re going to be able to do the workout. So in that case where you would be doing jumping jacks, I would say, just step it out and keep your hands moving up over your head and just step it out one foot at a time. For something like high knees where both feet are going off the ground and the knees are coming up, you can just walk in place and pick your knees up. Even something like a burpee. You can walk a burpee back. You don’t have to jump back and jump forward and then jump up. Right. You can step back one leg at a time, bring it forward one leg at a time and then lift up. So there’s definitely ways to modify exercise for lower impact and ask whoever’s instructing the class or look for modifications online in order to do it safely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and this idea for me, because I was always trying to find 40 minutes in my day and pack in that run, grab the dog, put on my shoes, got to go. And my wife would always say to me, well, you can walk, just walk. Yeah, but it takes twice as long, but really that is indeed dialing down the high impact. Right. Just walk instead of run.

Ann Marie Wakula:
You know what, I spend most of my day telling my clients just to relax and treat their body kindly in order to get the best results possible. So high impact high intensity workouts often raise our cortisol hormone and it is, exercises is stress. Exercise is a beautiful form. It can be a stress relief, but it also causes stress on the body. And as we age more and more stress happens with aging. It happens with life events. It happens with how busy we are with our jobs and our kids. So when you tack on that extra layer of stress, if you are running, jumping, doing all these higher impact things, it actually could be deterring your results, your overall results, especially if it’s weight loss. So if your cortisol and your hormone levels are high and your goal is to lose weight, it could be doing the exact opposite if your body’s just trying to recuperate from the stress of the activity.

Chuck Gaidica:
That is so interesting because I think a lot of us are programmed that there are certain ways we should shed pounds or shred, you see that word used a lot in all kinds of online programs. This idea of HIT training and I’m not diminishing it, I’ve done it, high intensity workouts. And what you’re saying is be careful because you could do too much of that. And you would say, well, why am I not losing any weight? What’s going on?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Absolutely. So, yeah, just like I said, it causes that extra layer of stress for your body and walking can actually be more effective. Strength training can be more effective as well. The high impact strengthens the bones, right, and increases our bone density. However, strength training can do the exact same thing. And it’s not high impact where you would be more at risk for injury.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I just saw some guy posted today, I don’t know on which social media, but he was doing a plank. And he said, I always go for body weight exercises versus using, I pick them up and I put them down, the big weights. I didn’t know if I relate to that directly, but that’s almost a version of being careful that you’re not overextending your arm with a 40 pound dumbbell or something, right, just using your body weight to help you in a lower impact way, maybe achieve the same results with pushups or something.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Absolutely. You just took the words out of my mouth, pushups. Those are great. You start with the modification, you start with pushups on your knees and then you work your way up to a full plank. So whenever you’re starting a workout or starting a new workout regimen, you should start from the very beginning and work your way up. Right. So you may want to start with, like I said, walking in place, and then maybe that high knee position starts to become more of a jog. But again, you put yourself at risk for injury, more likely with a high impact workout. And you can honestly, for what we’re trying to achieve, I believe when we start to get in our 30s and 40s and beyond just being healthy in general, you can achieve those results with low impact activity.

Chuck Gaidica:
And it’s funny because when you mention those ages and of course my left knee problem probably started half a lifetime ago. Right. When we’re young we don’t think, we never think ahead. I’m going to live forever. My knees will be fine 30 more years down the road. And then you kind of wake up and go uh oh. What can we be looking at now, regardless of our age, that you would suggest, even based on your experience with the people who you train, what are the exercises we should consider right now, swapping out, going from high impact to low impact, what would they be specifically?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Jump squats. That’s one thing, for example, especially for impact on the knees, you’d want to start with something like an air squat. Plyometric type pushups, where your kind of pushing yourself off the ground and getting that lift. You want to go down on your knees. The jumping jacks, like we said, in the beginning, you kind of want to step it out one at a time. Swimming, swimming is awesome. It’s an awesome low impact exercise. It’s great for the cardiovascular. It’s great for arms and legs and total body. That’s excellent. Have you ever gone to the gym and seen a spin bike that you use with your arms? Right. I can’t think of the actual name of it. That’s another one. So if you’re looking to actually start to get a sweat during your workout, you can do lower impact things. You can do the stair climbing, just stepping up the stairs one at a time. You can replace the spin bike with running on the treadmill or higher impact activities and still get that cardio benefit without putting your joints at risk.

Chuck Gaidica:
And even an outdoor bicycle ride. Right. I mean, you can go for a bike ride and I know it’s working your joints and you’ve got to be careful and you don’t want to be popping too many curbs, but honest to goodness, you’re getting more territory, more scenery in than you are necessarily if you’re walking.

Ann Marie Wakula:
And you’re lowering that stress level. Right. It’s beautiful to be outside, especially right now this time in Michigan, when it’s gorgeous out, we don’t have many more months of this left, go for a walk, go for a bike ride. When I think of high impact activity, I feel like its most often, it’s for athletes. It’s for people that are training for something, right? If you’re training for a marathon, you want to make sure that you’re getting out there and doing your run. If you’re training for some type of competition, like body building competition, whatever it may be, that’s when high impact may come into play. For people that are just looking to be fit and healthy, low impact is a wonderful way to keep yourself safe and healthy.

Chuck Gaidica:
And that’s interesting you say that because I, for some reason, got a picture in my brain of Asian countries, Eastern Asian countries, where people go for walks every single day and you see it translate to when they move to the US. They’re not moving too fast. They are literally in a state where I admire them sometimes. I see people go for walks and they’ve got their arms behind their back. And they’re literally in a stroll, but they do it every single day and they go for a while and I just thought, wow, are they not de-stressed as well.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Absolutely. People don’t think of walking as a form of burning calories either when actually your workout accounts for such a small percentage of your day. It’s those extra times when you get up throughout the day and walk around, that is going to help you burn more calories. And just going for a stroll, keeping your heart rate at about 60% of your max. So you figure out your max heart rate 220 minus your age and then 60% of that would be a really nice place to keep your heart rate while you’re going for a walk. So if you do have a heart rate monitor or something, just kind of check it and it’s a great place to be.

Chuck Gaidica:
And a lot of people are not checking their steps. I know I do. And to be honest, the old day of going to be a mall walker, to be honest, I can replace that now. If I just walk from one corner of Costco to the other corner, I don’t know how many miles that is back and forth, but I see these people that work there all the time. And I think, man, what kind of number of steps are you getting just making the rounds?

Ann Marie Wakula:
I know. I know. So wait, what’s your step goal? Tell me your daily step goal.

Chuck Gaidica:
If I don’t hit a minimum of 7,500 and I mean by default, okay, so that is still having two dogs take me for a walk.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Okay.

Chuck Gaidica:
And when I’m really, I’ve just moved, when I’m doing stuff and going up and downstairs, if I’m hitting 10 to 12,000, I’m still not feeling it. If I start to approach 15,000, that’s a lot of steps, but if I’m not 7,500 a day and a lot of that is what’s the acronym? NEAT, non essential activity. Right. I’m just doing it because I’m going well, shopping or something.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah. Okay. That’s actually really good.

Chuck Gaidica:
Is it?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah. I aim for about 10,000 steps a day and I have to be honest with you now that I’m sitting most of the day, doing all of my programming and training online, I have to set timers on my phone to get up, to get them in. It’s challenging to do, but it’s a really great way to burn calories, if that’s what you’re looking to do, it really is.

Chuck Gaidica:
And you can get them in your house. I know it sounds weird, but if the snow starts to fly, which it will someday, you know you can just do this in your house. You’ve got steps. You’ve got stairs. You can walk around from the kitchen to the family room and back and forth. It looks kind of weird, but it works.

Ann Marie Wakula:
In the winter time I will not go outside if it’s below 45 degrees. I just don’t. I don’t know how I,

Chuck Gaidica:
Come on. Really?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Spent my whole life in Michigan. I mean, I will, but I won’t really. I don’t really want to. Okay. So I have a staircase. I go up my staircase through my kids’ Jack and Jill bathroom down the staircase around the kitchen counter. And I will keep doing that to get my steps in. And my kids look at me. They’re like, mom, what are you doing? It’s important.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and I’ll do that. And what’s so funny for me because I’m always thinking of kids. I take my shoes off, but then I think, am I wearing out the carpet? And then I’ll get past that. I don’t care. I really don’t care if I’m cutting the same path through the house. I don’t care anymore.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Are you walking your dogs too? My dog will walk behind me.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, I do have one dog that will follow me. And she normally sits right by my feet wherever I go. But no, normally the two dog walks probably account for, it could be as much as a couple thousand steps easy, because they have to go more than once. So it’s just the way it is.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
Any other high impact to low impact exercises or something we should consider throwing in the mix that you think would be critical for some of us who maybe are only concentrating on walking?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yes. Oh my goodness. Okay. Stretching, Pilates, yoga. I know we’ve mentioned these before in like our past conversations, but this is definitely like I said, be kind to your body. Right. So if you want to see changes, aesthetic changes come from adding a little bit of weight, weight training, strength training, eating a really good diet, making sure you’re stretching, doing yoga, rest and recovery. I mean, I have a high school athlete. He plays football, they have yoga as a part of their,

Chuck Gaidica:
Do they?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Recovery process. They do. And I think it’s awesome. It’s so important. Because again, we’re hard on our bodies physically just with day to day stress and activity. So dialing it back and then you’re able to get in tune with how you’re feeling, you’re able to get in tune. Is your IT band tight? Is your knee feeling tight? Maybe your back’s feeling something’s off. Right. So you want to make sure that you’re modifying your exercises and your exercise routine to address those issues or avoid anything that might be bothering you, right?

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Ann Marie Wakula:
So if your IT band or your knee’s bothering you, you don’t want to go out for a run because you could risk some type of knee injury for example.

Chuck Gaidica:
Or if it’s 44 degrees, you don’t want to go outside at all.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Exactly.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh wait. That’s just on your block. I’m sorry.

Ann Marie Wakula:
That is exactly true. Oh my gosh.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well that’s really good advice. And when you say, be in touch with your body, maybe I’m the only weird guy on the whole planet that does this, when I do stretching and I have done some yoga, but when I stretch, I’m in touch with my body, especially after the holidays. I’ll stretch and I’ll go, oh there’s a little bit of a roll there that wasn’t there before. Right. Because you can feel it now when you’re trying to stretch your hamstrings or something.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Yeah. You can definitely feel it. I mean it’s important. It makes you assess your workout, your nutrition and how you’re feeling overall. So very important. Low impact, it’s great if you’re injured, recovering from injuries, want to assess the body, it’s easy on the joints. So it’s another reason why it would be great just to start incorporating some of that movement. Oh the other thing, like what I said with Pilates and yoga, it helps with alignment and balance too. That’s important.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Very important. I know. I hate saying as we age, but you know what, as we’re sitting here having conversation, we’re aging, so these are things we need to think about for our future. And then it gives you that break as well from doing any type of cardio because we don’t have to do cardio all the time. You should cycle through your cardio.

Chuck Gaidica:
I’m going to admit one more weird thing I try to do almost every day when I brush my teeth, I try to alternate standing on one foot or the other while I’m brushing.

Ann Marie Wakula:
I love that.

Chuck Gaidica:
Because it’s a balance play. And for me, I just keep thinking, well now I’ve got little grandkids that are running around and I want to make sure I can keep up with them. So it’s kind of a weird ploy to try to do this. But for me, chewing gum, walking and talking would be tough at all times anyway. Right. So it is a challenge. But once you get into it, it’s kind of a fun game. For me, it’s like Wordle. It’s just something I’ve gotten into.

Ann Marie Wakula:
I really do. I really love your routine. You have a lot of really great tips and things that you do throughout your day,

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh well thanks.

Ann Marie Wakula:
That are awesome. I mean, just that in itself, thinking to do that, I think that’s a great tip and something that everyone listening should think about. Brushing your teeth on one foot, just to get that balance.

Chuck Gaidica:
Just close the blinds in case the neighbors see you. They’ll think your kind of strange when you’re stumbling, brushing your teeth. Yeah. Why is he off balance there?

Ann Marie Wakula:
Oh my gosh.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well what do you want to leave us with as some good takeaways? You’ve given us so much great stuff today, but give us some of the bullet points or the headlines, what we should think about.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Sure. I mean, I just want everyone to know that you don’t have to go crazy, crazy in order to achieve really good results. So you could achieve great results from low impact workouts, aesthetically speaking. So with the exception, like I said, if you’re training for something. So it’s definitely something to consider. It’s very safe. It’s effective both for your heart as we have talked about through the different exercises, whether it’s biking or swimming or something low impact that gets your heart rate up, or if it’s doing strength training, which we had also talked about. Number two, the high impact exercise strengthens your bones and your bone density. However, strength training can also do that with reduction of injury. Right. And then low impact workouts are very safe and they focus on stability. They’re less stressful to our bodies and our hormone levels like our cortisol and with really good nutrition and low impact workouts, you can maintain a very healthy fit lifestyle.

Chuck Gaidica:
Good stuff. Ann Marie Wakula, it is so good to see you again.

Ann Marie Wakula:
So good to see you.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. Thanks. And pretty soon you won’t be leaving the house. I mean, pretty soon it’ll be 45 degrees all the time at night then you won’t come out so.

Ann Marie Wakula:
You won’t see me. You’ll just see me on Instagram. That’s it.

Chuck Gaidica:
Doing the stairs. Yeah. Going around upstairs.

Ann Marie Wakula:
That’s it.

Chuck Gaidica:
All right. Take good care of yourself. Thanks.

Ann Marie Wakula:
Oh, so great to see you. Thanks for having me.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh sure thing. Ann Marie Wakula is a personal trainer and also a macro nutrition coach. We’re glad you’ve been with us today. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. And if you like the show and you want to know more about it, you can go online. You can check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave us reviews on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. You can put ratings there if you want. To get the latest episodes, all the old episodes on your smartphone or tablet, be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify or the favorite place you go to subscribe. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Be well.