Nothing is more frustrating than trying to do something with your body when your body doesn’t cooperate. Perhaps you used to run marathons and now it hurts to finish a 5k. Or maybe plyometrics and jumping used to be a staple in your workout life and now you wouldn’t dream of it. The fact is that our bodies change over time. Injury, overuse, chronic pain— there are so many reasons to choose low-impact activities. In fact, even if you don’t have a specific physical reason you NEED to choose low impact, it’s still a good idea to put it in the mix for good preventative care. All the impact eventually adds up, so mixing up your workouts is a smart idea. For those of you who still want that killer workout, here’s the good news: low impact does NOT mean low intensity. You can choose low-impact exercise and still put forth a maximal work effort to get great results. In fact, we’ve created this low-impact workout just for you with some of the best exercises to do at home!
What Is Low-Impact?
Simply stated, low-impact exercise is when at least one foot stays in contact with the ground—meaning no jumping or plyometric work. Walking, hiking, rollerblading, step aerobics and cardio-dance formats can all be low-impact exercise. Some formats are not only “low-impact” but count as “no-impact.” These include things like swimming, water aerobics, cycling and elliptical machines.
Why Choose Low-Impact?
Common reasons for choosing low-impact exercise include pregnancy, obesity, aging, or joint and pain or injuries. But the truth is low-impact exercise is beneficial for EVERYONE—even the healthy, pain-free person. High impact puts stress on your joints and bones and low impact options will reduce the risk of injuries.
What Are My Low-Impact Options?
Low-impact workouts are everywhere! Some of the most common options around include:
- Walking: Always available and super simple. Lace up, head out, and get your walk on. Remember you can increase intensity by walking up hills, power walking fast, or carrying weights.
- Elliptical: The ever popular elliptical machine doesn’t have to be monotonous. Change it up by adding intervals which adds intensity and heart rate for more results.
- Dance Formats (like Zumba): This one will get your body, mind and soul going! Between the music and the movement these classes are too fun to feel like a workout. Only your sweat will give it away.
- Cycling: Indoor or outdoor, cycling is an amazing low-impact workout! Ride outside and enjoy the view or check our Beginner’s Guide to Spin Class and take an indoor class to pack an extra punch in your routine. Bring an extra towel!
- Stairmaster: Hitting the stairs is a great workout, but it can take a toll on the joints. The stairmaster gives you all of the climbing without all of the pounding. Bonus: This is stellar way to shape your backside!
- Rowing or Kayaking: What the stairmaster does for your booty, rowing or kayaking will do for your upper body. While still using power from the legs and core, this gets your heart rate up, burns a ton of calories and also focuses on the arms, back and shoulders. And by the way- your core will thank you too! Keep in mind if that getting a kayak into the water isn’t possible, indoor rowing is more popular than ever. It’s even showing up as a group training class!
- Yoga: No, you won’t get the heart pumping as much as an outdoor run, but you will work and your body deserves a little stretch, some time to breathe, and a bit of rejuvination. Yoga comes in many forms from long deep stretches of Yin, to the heart-pumping flow of vinyasa. Discover which one is right for you and get your yoga on!
- Strength Training: One thing’s for sure, cardiovascular exercise isn’t enough. Strength training is a necessary part of your overall health and wellness. Take out a few cardio days and insert some strength training into your routine. The list of benefits is long and it another great way to avoid impact while you are exercising.
Most of you can find something on that list you like. But since we know cross training is important and eventually you’ll be looking for other options, we’ve created a great low-impact workout for you that’s fast, easy, and portable enough to do anywhere. Grab a light set of dumbbells and lets get started.
This workout is done circuit-style. You will perform each move for 1 minute, and then go directly to the next one. Once you finish the entire sequence of 8, go back to the beginning and start again. Some moves use hand weights and some are bodyweight-only Remember, low-impact does not have to be low intensity, but it all depends on the effort you put in. Use a big range of motion and, using good form, move swiftly enough to raise your heart rate so that you are breathing through your mouth. Here some of the best exercises to do at home:
A) Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart and bend knees slightly. Tighten the core to keep your center still.
B) Punch out one arm at a time at a steady pace.
A) Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Take a large step backward with the right foot and lower your body toward the floor. Both legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
B) Straighten your left leg and kick your right foot forward to hip height or higher if possible. Repeat for desired number of reps then switch legs.
A) Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.
B) Bend your left arm so that it is now in forearm plank position.
C) Then bend your right arm so you are in a full forearm plank position.
D) Lift your left hand and place it on the mat directly below your shoulder as you push through your palm to lift yourself.
A) Start standing with feet hip distance apart and lower into a squat position by bending the knees. Keep the spine straight, chest lifted, and knees behind toes. The elbows are bent and dumbbells are at shoulder height.
B) Using the lower body, thrust up to standing and press the dumbbells overhead extending the arms long. Then lower back to starting position.
A) Stand with feet hip width apart and arms bent and held in front of you.
B) Lift right leg up, bending knee slightly, and kick right foot forward. Keep ankle flexed and push through your heel.
C) Place the right foot down and switch to the left.
D) Continue to repeat for desired amount of time or number or repetitions.
A) Start in squat position, weight back on heels and arms long next to side holding dumbbells.
B) Squeeze your glutes to press up and lift right knee as you curl the weights to your shoulders.
C) Slowly lower the weights back down and return to squat position. Repeat with left knee.
A) Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
B) Make two fists and hold arms next to side with elbows bent.
C) Punch the right fist in an upward motions, stopping firmly at chin level.
D) Switch to left fist.
E) Continue to switch right and left until you are at a fast, rhythmic pace, always stopping at chin level as if you are punching a target.
A) Start on back with bent knees and feet on the mat. Elbows are bent and dumbbells are resting above the chest.
B) Bring the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat sitting up, and extend the arms out long pressing the dumbbell forward. Return back to the mat with control.
Want to save these exercises? Click below to get the printable chart or pin them for later!
Want more low impact workouts? Try our free 10-Minute No Running Cardio Workout!