When doing low-impact aerobics, it may seem, at first, that doing low impact means you have to do a low-intensity workout. However, you can do a low-impact, high-intensity workout by using a few tricks to increase your heart rate. Whether you're doing a low-impact aerobics class or doing a low-impact aerobic workout on your own, you can use arm movements and music tempo and focus on specific muscle groups to get your heart rate up.
Adding arm movements to a low-impact aerobic workout, especially using your arms over your head, will get your heart rate up. Reaching across your body with your arms in a straight and horizontal position, rather than letting your arms hang loose and bent at your sides, also increases your workout intensity and heart rate. Controlling your arm movements and working against gravity requires more work, and the harder you work to control your arm movements, the more your heart rate goes up.
Another trick for your low-impact aerobics class is to put more muscle work into your movements. This is something that you can do more in a low-impact aerobic workout than in a high impact workout. High-impact aerobics uses more momentum behind movements, such as hopping and jumping. In low-impact aerobics, focus on using your muscles more than momentum to increase your workout intensity and heart rate. As your muscles work harder, your heart beats faster to bring more blood and oxygen to your muscles. Another trick is to use your legs more. Your legs have four to five times more muscle mass than your upper body; using major muscle groups in the lower body, such as quadriceps, to lift your legs higher while doing low-impact aerobics helps increase your heart rate.
Low-impact aerobic movements done with progressively faster movements will get your heart rate up. If you're taking a dance studio or water aerobics class, your instructor will use faster music toward the middle of the class, with movements choreographed to move faster with the music. If you are working out on your own, get your heart rate up higher by using music with a faster tempo and match your movements to the beat of the music. There's a psychological benefit to using upbeat and faster tempo tunes, too -- upbeat music helps you fight fatigue and the urge to slow down during your workout.
As you use these tricks to increase your heart rate, you'll need to monitor yourself to make sure you don't exceed your target heart rate. Your target heart rate should be between 55 and 85 percent of your maximum allowed heart rate, and when you reach your target heart-rate zone, keep your heart rate there for 15 to 20 minutes. To determine your maximum, or maximal, heart rate and your target heart-rate zone, there's a simple set of calculations you can do at home. Subtract your age from 220 to first determine your maximal heart rate. This number is the maximum number of beats per minute your heart can theoretically do at your age. To determine your target heat-rate zone, multiply your maximal heart rate by .55 and then by .85 to determine your optimal range. As you use the arm movements, muscle work and tempo tricks to increase your heart rate during low-impact aerobics, stay within this range for your health and safety.
- Fitness: Theory and Practice, Aerobics Fitness Association of America; P. Jordan (Ed).
- European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology: A Comparison of the Relation Between Oxygen Uptake and Heart Rate During Different Styles of Aerobic Dance and a Traditional Step Test in Women
- IDEA Health and Fitness Association: The Beat Goes On: The Effects of Music on Exercise
Kris Heeter is a research scientist specializing in basic cancer and disease research. Her work has appeared in several scholarly journals and online publications. Heeter has also been a wellness professional for more than 15 years, teaching healthy cooking courses and fitness classes. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology.