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Weight-bearing vs. non-weight-bearing exercise: which one’s for you?

Personal trainers and other health and fitness professionals often refer to weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing exercise when devising exercise and rehabilitation plans for patients and clients. While the descriptive names of these two different types of exercise are quite self-explanatory, it is good to understand which exercise might be best for you, based on your specific needs.

Weight-bearing exercise

Put simply, weight-bearing exercise is any type of physical activity that requires a person to work against gravity, and against their own body weight. Contrary to what it sounds like, weight-bearing exercise is not necessarily exercise that involves lifting weights – this type of exercise is called resistance training.

Weight-bearing exercise is an important part of any fitness regime because it improves overall bone strength and health, and may delay or prevent problems associated with low bone-density, including osteoporosis.

Types of weight-bearing exercise:

  • Hiking
  • Jogging/running/walking
  • High-impact aerobic exercises
  • Stair-climbing
  • Tennis
  • Dancing
  • Jumping rope

Non-weight-bearing exercise

Also referred to as low-impact exercise, non-weight-bearing exercise is physical activity where the body weight is supported. In other words, a person is not exercising against their own body weight or against gravity.

Non-weight-bearing exercise is ideal for people who struggle with injuries, are in rehabilitation from injuries, or struggle with bone-related problems like arthritis or osteoporosis.

Types of non-weight-bearing exercise:

  • Swimming
  • Stationary bike
  • Elliptical
  • Deep water running and other exercises in the pool

What is best for you?

Weight-bearing exercise is an essential part of any exercise programme because of the range of benefits it holds. Not only does weight-bearing exercise improve bone health and strength, but it also aids cardiac health, as it pushes the heart rate up. Weight-bearing exercise should form a part of the training programme of any person who is not struggling with injury of bone-related problems.

Non-weight-bearing exercise is ideal for anyone that is recovering from injury, and might also be a good way for people who have abandoned any kind of exercise regime for a while to ease back into it. People who suffer from spine or joint-related problems will do well to discuss this option with their doctor or physiotherapist.

It is always good to run any changes you are making to your fitness and exercise plan by your healthcare practitioner, as these specialists will be able to provide the best advice. With that being said, the cardio benefits that both weight-bearing and non-weight bearing exercise hold make it an indispensable part of staying healthy in body and in mind.

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