Nearly all doctors recommend to their patients some type of physical exercise on a daily basis to improve their health. Younger patients more easily tolerate high impact activities such as running sports, jumping activities or exercise programs that incorporate using weights and higher impact.
As we age, these activities become more difficult and the recommendation changes to lower impact activities that would reduce the stress on your back, hips, knees and ankles. Patients frequently ask me what I think is a better exercise, particularly if their family doctors or cardiologists have suggested a walking program for their heart health, but that disturbs their back, hips or knees.
As an alternative, I strongly recommend low impact activities like road biking or stationary biking, treadmill or elliptical exercise machines. Probably the best is swimming or water aerobics if one is not a swimmer. Many community centers have pools where there are classes that teach water aerobics, various water exercises or have lanes set aside for traditional swimming activities. This is excellent cardiovascular exercise and is certainly much easier on the joints. Thirty minutes of swimming a day actually burns more than twice as many calories as thirty minutes of walking.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I still consider walking an excellent form of exercise and would encourage it. Sometimes it is just a matter of avoiding hills, unleveled ground, concrete or asphalt. Frequently in the winter, walkers need to stay out of the cold, inclement weather and the local malls usually are filled with walkers in the mornings or evenings doing their routine. This is an excellent form of exercise and I recommend that as well.
The point is that continued physical exercise of some type on a daily basis is important for your cardiovascular health and overall well-being. If you suffer from arthritis of your spine, hips, knees or ankles, there are alternatives to allow you to continue to do adequate maintenance exercises without irritating your joints.