Karen’s Extremely Low Impact Aerobic Exercises
My objective in creating this extremely low impact aerobic exercise was to identify an activity that always produced a satisfactory aerobic heart rate without impacting my joints or subjecting my muscles to repetitive motion injuries.
During my research, I discovered that exercising to a specific musical cadence of 145 beats-per-minute (BPM) or higher, rather than to random music, would always produce reliable results. Further, I discovered that any music can be adjusted to a tempo of your choosing, which means you can control the tempo of your own cardio program. For specific information on how to do this, read my article, Easy Cardio Exercising Anywhere.
The key to arriving at a replicable aerobic exercise rate is to move your arms and legs to a predetermined cadence. Unfortunately, most aerobic exercises tend to be hard on the body, which is a particular concern for people who are suffering from injuries (arm, knee, ankle, etc.), as well as for less active people, such as those with arthritis or fibromyalgia, and seniors.
After several trials, all set to fast musical tempos, I discovered that with arm support provided with a stretch strap, I could move my arms back and forth to produce aerobic results without stressing my neck or shoulders. I also discovered that with arm support, I could also move my legs in a walking or shuffling manner in a way that produced aerobic results without the pounding of jogging, jumping, or leaping.
Equipment you will need
- A stretch strap with multiple grips: A “stretch strap” is a device designed to help you with stretching exercises, but for this exercise, it will supply arm support. These straps cost around $15/20, and can be found on Amazon.com by using the key words “stretch strap.” I recommend the “Stretch Out Strap ™” as it comes with an excellent exercise book.
- Something to hang the strap on that is above shoulder height: At minimum, the strap can hang on a screw-mounted shower curtain rod, a “bar gym,” (which can be secured to a doorway), or any secure anchor, such as a drawer pull screwed to a wall or door. The mounting needs to be secure so you don’t pull it off while exercising, even though you will NOT be hanging on it.
- The means to check your heart rate: You can check your heart rate manually, or with some type of device. I like an inexpensive “Pulse Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor,” but many types of heart rate monitors exist.
- Adjusted music: Adjusted music refers to a basic tune set to a higher-than-normal tempo. See my recent article, “Easy Cardio Exercising Anywhere,” on how to create your own adjusted music. (Note that in the future, I will supply you with some adjusted music samples to help you get started.)
- Sling the strap over a secure bar so it hangs loosely from the strap’s center point.
- Hold the strap’s left and right grips in your hands, as shown in the photo below.
Technique: Without pulling or tugging, practice raising and dropping your arms like you would if you were walking. The “drop” pulls the opposite arm up in a way that only requires slight shoulder tension to fully lift it. If you feel muscle tension, slack off.
Once you get the hang of it, move your arms to the very fast beat. If you have a hard time keeping up, make a beat-matching sound like “da da da da” to help you match your movement to the cadence.
- Turn on your music for a timed session.
I hold my sessions from 8 to 10 minutes each, as longer sessions tend to promote muscle stress. If needed, start with less time (such as 2 minutes), then work up to longer periods. Repeat a session 3 to 4 times a day, or maybe more depending how you feel after.
- Holding onto the stretch strap grips, let your arms “drop” and rise to the beat of the music, which, considering the tempo, only requires short distances. Hold the grips wherever you feel comfortable. Match this action by shuffling, strolling, marching, or jogging. The more foot action you can muster, the better the results.
Caution: Do not tug at your arms, tense your shoulders, or put pressure on the bar that holds the strap.
- When finished, immediately measure your pulse.
Unless you overly stress yourself, your pulse will immediately start dropping after exercise. To get the most accurate reading, wear a heart rate monitor. For an approximate reading, immediately use a device like a Pulse Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor, or take it manually.
Your goal is to significantly raise your heart rate above your resting heart rate by at least 30 BPI. The more you move your feet, the higher BPI you will achieve. Note that the more you practice, more effort you’ll need to achieve high aerobic levels. On the other hand, your resting heart rate will tend to drop as your heart becomes increasingly fit.
Published “aerobic range lists” group aerobic goals based on age, but these lists do not take into consideration people whose movement is constrained by injury, arthritis, or fibromyalgia/rheumatism. If you are sedentary, or simply cannot move quickly, you’ll find that any sustained heart rate level above resting to be very beneficial. This is especially true if your mobility or income problems prohibit you from buying equipment or joining a gym.
Karen’s Results: At 72 years old, I have an average resting heart rate of 67-68 BPM. Because of knee injuries, brisk walking or jogging in place is restricted. Using this exercise at an easy pace, I achieve a heart rate of at least 100 BPM. With more leg effort, I can achieve a heart rate of 110 to 120+ BPM. While this is not an Olympian level, over time it eliminated muscular stiffness and increased my alertness.
- Compare the results of your exercise based on 145, 180, and 200 BPM music tempos.
- Determine your best length of practice time. I recommend 8 to 10 minutes, three to four times a day, rather than long 15 to 20 minute sessions.
- Determine how moving your legs best fits your needs. If your knees and ankles can take the pounding, march or jog in place for the greatest effect, otherwise, quickly stroll or shuffle. At minimum, walk back and forth to the best of your ability.
- Do you have really bad knees and ankles? Do this exercise while standing or sitting. You will still benefit from moving your supported arms to a fast temple, but not as much as if you could move your legs at the same time.
- Do you have fibromyalgia/rheumatism, or other problems with poor muscle recovery? Ease into this exercise, perhaps doing sets of it every other day. Over time, regular aerobic exercise such as this will help reduce your stiffness and invigorate your energy.
Consult your healthcare professional before any type of new exercise program, especially if you have known issues. Have your back muscles and posture checked and work on strengthening both.
Do not do this exercise if you habitually hunch your shoulders, or have constant muscle strain. See a physical therapist for advice.
- Excellent chart that shows how to evaluate your resting heart rate. This article, published on www.TopEndSports.com, includes links to other aerobic heart rate issues.
- Target Aerobic Heart Rates
- This link leads to a Google list of articles on the benefits of aerobic exercise.
- Easy Cardio Exercising Anywhere, by Karen Little, published on February 8, 2016. This article describes how to increase the tempo of any music to at least 145 to 200 BPM.
- How short bursts of high-intensity exercise could keep you (relatively) fit, by By Meeri Kim, Washington Post, March 2, 2016
- Physical Activity for People With Arthritis.
- Stretch Out Strap by DKSA. I like this multiple grip strap because of its accompanying exercise booklet.
- Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor (pulse reader). This one has a very reasonable price!
- Bars installed in doorways (door gyms) on Amazon.com. Note: Do not buy pully-type exercise bars as the pulleys are meant for building muscle, not swinging arms.
This article was written by Karen Little of www.Littleviews.com. Pictures from product advertisements and by Philip Little. Published on March 4, 2016 and updated on March 7. Copyright owned by Karen Little and Littleviews. Permission to reproduce this article must be granted by Karen Little at Karen@littleviews.com. Feel free to write her at any time.