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Blog / Wellness

5 Advantages of Low Intensity Workouts

20 Mar, 2023 | 4 minutes read

Active individuals sometimes think of easier workouts as unnecessary. But lower intensity sessions do offer mental and physical health benefits. Plus, what is your alternative if you skip that low intensity workout? Compared to sitting, any low intensity exercise is likely much better for you!

What is a low intensity workout?

A low intensity workout is any exercise that keeps your heart rate at a steady pace of about 50% of its maximum ability. You can get a general idea of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. When looking at a heart rate zone chart, zone 1 or 2 will be your target, depending on the chart you’re using. When using a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale, low intensity falls in the 1 to 3 range. You should easily be able to maintain a conversation. 

Low intensity training is beneficial when performed in a sustained and steady state, in which the heart rate remains low and stable and exercise lasts 30 minutes or longer.

Low intensity workouts are typically also low impact, which makes them great for people with joint pain or injuries or those seeking active recovery following intense workouts. Walking on a treadmill or easy-paced workouts on an elliptical, exercise bike or ClimbMill are great options. 

The key to keeping any low impact exercises a true low intensity workout is to stay within your lower target heart rate zones. Matrix equipment makes it easy to accomplish with the Heart Rate Zone program, available on all consoles.

Simply connect your heart rate strap (recommended due to great accuracy and the hands-free benefit) or use the heart rate grips, input your target heart rate into the program and the equipment will automatically adjust the speed on your treadmill or the resistance on your bike, elliptical or ClimbMill to keep you in the target zone throughout your workout.

Advantages

There are several distinct ways that low intensity workouts deliver health advantages.

1. Active Recovery

Lower intensity exercise can be an ideal active recovery strategy. This means that if you’re already challenging yourself with tougher workouts, the lower intensity movements can support how well you bounce back.

On the other hand, if you’re recovering from injury, then gentle low intensity movements may be ideal to stay active without any unnecessary stress. Studies suggest that low intensity exercise is especially helpful for those recovering from blood vessel injuries or head trauma.

2. Circulation

Your muscles rely on blood circulation to remove waste and deliver oxygen and nutrients. The heart pumps many factors through your blood vessels that mediate fitness improvements. For example, blood vessels convey amino acids to your muscles, the building blocks of protein that muscles use to grow and gain strength.

The health of your heart muscle is important to protect. This can be measured based on how much the heartbeat varies over time. Variability is desirable and associated with better health. Studies show that pain-free walking improves heart rate variability. This signals that the body is better able to shift into a relaxed state compared to those with low heart rate variability. 

3. Burn fat as fuel

Another advantage of easier movement sessions is that they burn a higher percentage of fat as fuel. Despite this higher percentage, low intensity exercise burns less total fat compared to moderate intensity workouts. Nonetheless, compared to skipping the workout all together, low intensity exercise sessions do support the goal of a leaner body.  

4. Insulin sensitivity

A lot of individuals are eager to improve their blood sugar. Insulin is crucial for this function, but we lose sensitivity to insulin when we haven’t worked out in several days. Research indicates that walking exercise can be used to reinstate our sensitivity to insulin. Further studies suggest that insulin sensitivity is improved by intensities as low as 40% of your peak exercise output. 

5. Elevate mood

Perhaps the most important way we benefit from low intensity movement is our mental health. Lower intensity movements can enhance mood. Easier workouts can ease the symptoms of depression, and help you feel connected to your body.

A new area of research is how we can combine exercise and contemplative practices. For example, walking movements can be ideal for practicing mindfulness. A study in young adults even found that 10 minutes of walking meditation can alleviate anxiety. 

Matrix makes it easy to combine mindfulness and exercise with our touchscreen consoles, which include a variety of entertainment apps like Spotify and YouTube that contain a plethora of free streaming meditation content.

Ready to get started?

As you begin your low intensity fitness program, keep in mind you will need to increase your intensity as you build stamina and fitness, and your zones adjust accordingly. Low intensity workouts won’t build muscle or burn calories at the same rate as high intensity workouts. If you’re looking for visible results, you’ll need a little patience. But these workouts offer numerous internal health benefits that shouldn’t be forgotten as you wait for the external results to appear.

________________________________________________________________

About the Author

Karlie Intlekofer, PhD, CNC, CPT, Global Wellness Researcher, Matrix Fitness

brunette woman in glasses smiling

As the Global Wellness Researcher at Matrix Fitness, Karlie uses evidence-based practices to develop exercise programming and initiatives to support healthier daily habits. As a neuroscientist specializing in behavior and exercise science, she focuses on the benefits of exercise, nutrition and habit formation for brain health and well-being. Karlie earned her doctorate in Neuroscience and Behavior and bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease or medical condition. Seek the advice of your health care provider before making changes to your diet, daily activity, sleep or fitness routine and any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Matrix Fitness assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner's manual of your fitness equipment.

 

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