February 5th, 2009
11:14 AM ET

What's a low-impact recipe for regaining fitness?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by JJ, Silver Spring, Maryland

"I lost a lot of weight before I reinjured my ankle (had surgery in 2005), and had my third baby. I’ve since gained it back and then some. I want to exercise, but my ankle is very arthritic and hurts when I run. What can I do to get back into shape for myself and my three children?"

JJ, it's easy to become discouraged after suffering an injury and gaining weight. Part of the challenge of getting in shape, for anyone, is being motivated to make a change. The good news is your attitude seems to already be on the right track.

There are several low-impact exercise options you can do to get back in shape as well as provide an energy boost to play with your kids as well as reduce arthritis pain.

If you have access to a local pool, swimming is one of the best full-body workouts for you. Being in the water creates an almost cushion-like environment for your body so you experience no stress or heavy impact. And even though it’s a low-impact exercise on your joints, it helps burn calories and tone muscles. Swimming at a leisurely rate for an hour can burn up to 600 calories.

Riding a bike is another great low-impact option. The range of motion wouldn’t add pressure to your ankle but will get your heart rate going. Stationary bikes are great in the home or at a gym. Also, investing in an outdoor bicycle may be a easy way to get a workout in while spending time with your three kids. Riding a bike with your family for just 30 minutes a day at a relatively slow pace burns 275 calories.

Yoga is another low-impact exercise option for you to do in the comfort of your home — no equipment necessary. It strengthens and tones your muscles and can also help reduce stress. A combination of low-impact cardio with a yoga routine would really kick start your health transformation.

Don’t forget that a successful weight-loss program combines healthy eating and exercising. Reducing your caloric intake by 3,500 calories a week can result in a steady weight loss of one pound per week. That breaks down to 500 fewer calories a day. Cutting out 250 calories from your diet and burning 250 calories from exercise a day is an easy way to get started.

Continue to stay motivated, JJ, and you’ll be back to healthy weight before you know it.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.