Low-Impact Exercise Isn't Lazy – Adriene And Others Tell Us Why

Yoga, walking or gentle swimming could give your mind and body a boost in 2021.

You’re reading Here, Try This – our month-long plan encouraging you to try something new every day.

“Nice and easy”, “in your own time”, “take a break”, “trust yourself”, “slow down”, “whatever feels good”.

Adriene Mishler’s Yoga To Slow Your Roll YouTube video is packed with reminders to take it easy. Because Mishler – founder of the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel – is adamant that slow, low-impact exercise is just as valuable as hitting the gym hard. Her 8.8 million subscribers seem to agree.

For some, moving slowly or being still is actually more difficult than “hard flow”, says Mishler, because it “creates a space for us to notice what feels difficult and ask why”.

“I also think this is a really valuable time for us to learn how to mindfully sit with
ourselves and our thoughts, feelings, sensations,” she tells HuffPost UK. “While we are physically distanced from our communities, this is a beautiful time to lean into the practice of stillness, self-care, and ultimately the practice of befriending your mind and body. Practice being your own best friend.”

Adriene Mishler with her dog, Benji.
Yoga With Adriene
Adriene Mishler with her dog, Benji.

If “new year, new you” fitness articles featuring muscle-clad gym bunnies make you want to run for the hills, now could be a good time to embrace a more relaxed exercise regime.

Mishler firmly believes that a regular, low-key, consistent practice is more beneficial than a high-impact workout every once in a while.

“Daily or regular practice, in any form, will improve body functions such as digestive or immune function. It will also bring balance to the nervous system, which will influence mental and emotional health, as well as bringing the body to an optimal state,” she says. “When in a more optimal state we notice improvements in ability to focus – all the way to better sleep.”

This sort of regular, easy practice can “invite big changes slowly”, she adds. “Over time, that can bring flexibility, energy, and good posture that will inevitably motivate one to move more, get the heart rate up, and continue to focus on building practices that serve.”

Kate Dale, who leads Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, plus the Join The Movement campaign (which is all about staying active during the pandemic), agrees.

“I think we need to move away from thinking that there’s a right way to move – that unless you’re going further, faster and getting fitter you’re not doing it right,” she says. “If it gets your heart rate up or your muscles working, it’s doing what it needs to do.”

Simply walking is one of the nation’s most popular ways to keep active, she says. “Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous to have a huge boost to our mental and physical wellbeing. And we need to celebrate the small things we do.”

Marjorie Barnes, 63, from Dulwich, south London, is a huge fan of walking and has slowly built up her routine – to the point where she now takes part in long-distance half-marathon walks for fun.

“Walking lifts my mood and it’s given me my confidence back. I have scoliosis in my lower spine, prolapsed discs and a short left leg, so let me tell you that if I can get active, anyone can!” she says.

“I never ever thought I would be a long-distance walker and I just know that there is something out there for all of us. Walking has helped me to make so many new friends and has given me a sense of freedom. I wish everyone was able to experience this.”

Marjorie Barnes after completing a long-distance walk.
Marjorie Barnes
Marjorie Barnes after completing a long-distance walk.

Meanwhile, Glynis Evans, 31, from Romford, Essex, loves swimming – whatever the pace. She stars in the current This Girl Can advert and wants to encourage others to give low-impact movement a chance.

“Although I have a physical disability I do not let that stop me in the pool. Swimming is the best exercise for me as I can exercise my whole body, especially my legs/stumps,” she tells HuffPost UK. “I learnt to swim in school when I was nine and it’s changed my life! To all women, I would say love yourself, love your body and be proud of yourself.”

Glynis Evans in the This Girl Can advert.
This Girl Can
Glynis Evans in the This Girl Can advert.

For Jess Leigh, 20, and based in Cheshire, it’s yoga that’s helped her through the pandemic so far. Her aunt is a yoga teacher, so she decided to join her online classes when she was stuck in New Zealand last March.

“It helped me so much. Life can be pretty stressful, especially during a pandemic, so yoga was such an incredible way to just breathe, relax and work my way through emotions through a physical activity,” she says.

“It also added some routine back to my day which I found helped so much. As we adapt to this pandemic life, my yoga practice slipped and so did my mental health, so I have been trying to start it again as I know the benefits are so incredible.”

Jess Leigh practising yoga at home.
Jess Leigh
Jess Leigh practising yoga at home.

Convinced by the perks? Getting into low-impact exercise is definitely doable. It could be as simple as putting a lunchtime walk into your diary, or trying out an online yoga class. Yoga with Adriene has launched a free, 30-day yoga journey called ‘Breath’ for January 2021, which could be a great way to start.

There’s not one set way to do things, says Dale, so allow yourself to experiment. “We feel it’s okay to do it when you want, how you want,” she adds. “My advice would be to find what works for you.”

And if nothing else, trying some low-impact exercise provides an opportunity to put your phone down, adds Mishler. “Uniting breath and body, feeling the earth – this will change your energy, and in my opinion, will suit you much more than doom scrolling,” she says.

“The chance to be intentional, to be present, and to use the practice as an opportunity to really check in is so beneficial for maintaining balance and mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.”

This new year, we focus on fun, not denial (because we’ve all had enough of that). Follow our month-long plan, with a new Here, Try This idea each day, spanning easy ways to engage your body and mind, inspiration for your food and home, and tips for boosting how you feel – inside and out.