Mobility issues, poor flexibility and even previous injuries can really get in the way of maintaining an active lifestyle. But here’s the good news – you don’t have to let these challenges stop you from achieving your fitness goals.
Cue my comprehensive guide on low impact workouts for beginners.
This is your starting point to a healthier and fitter you, without causing undue strain on your body. These workouts are designed to be gentle on your joints, yet effective enough to boost your cardiovascular health, improve flexibility, and tone your muscles.
Whether you’re a senior looking for exercises that won’t exacerbate arthritis or a fitness newbie who wants to ease into working out, low impact exercises can be your best bet. They offer an excellent way to stay fit, lose weight, and enhance overall well-being without risking injury or discomfort.
What Is a Low Impact Workout?
A low impact workout is a form of exercise that exerts minimal stress on the body, specifically on the joints. Unlike high-impact exercises such as running and jumping, which can put significant strain on the knees, ankles, hips, and other joints, low impact workouts are designed to minimize this potential harm while still delivering effective and beneficial exercise.
In a low impact workout, at least one foot remains in contact with the ground at all times, reducing the amount of force absorbed by the body. These workouts are not only suitable for those who are new to exercise or returning after injury, but also for those who want to maintain their health and fitness without risking joint damage.
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Here are some distinguishing qualities of low impact workouts:
As mentioned above, these exercises minimize stress on the joints. This makes them ideal for people with joint problems, older adults, and those recovering from injuries (4).
Effective Cardiovascular Exercise
Despite being low impact, these workouts can still elevate your heart rate just like any other workout. They can help improve cardiovascular health, promote weight loss, and enhance endurance and stamina (1).
Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. Many such workouts, like swimming or rowing engage multiple muscle groups, offering a comprehensive full-body workout.
There’s a wide variety of low-impact exercises to choose from, including yoga, pilates, cycling, and more. This means you can find something you enjoy, keeping you motivated to stick with your exercise routine.
Improves Balance and Coordination
Many low impact workouts, especially activities like yoga and Tai Chi, require and thus can help improve balance and coordination (3).
Suitable for All Fitness Levels
Whether you’re a beginner, an elderly individual, or a seasoned athlete needing a rest day, low impact workouts can be adapted to suit a wide range of fitness levels and abilities.
Can Low Impact Exercise Help You Lose Weight?
Yes, low impact exercise can indeed help you lose weight. It’s a common misconception that only high-intensity workouts can contribute to weight loss. While it’s true that high-intensity exercises may burn calories at a faster rate, low impact exercises can also play a significant role in weight management.
The key to weight loss is creating a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you consume. This can be achieved through both dietary changes and physical activity, including low impact exercises.
Here’s how low impact exercise contributes to weight loss:
Steady Calorie Burn
Low impact exercises such as walking, cycling, swimming, or doing yoga can burn a significant number of calories, especially when done for extended periods. For instance, a 30-minute swim can burn around 200-300 calories, depending on your weight and intensity (2).
One advantage of low impact exercises is that they’re easier to sustain over longer periods. High-intensity workouts can lead to fatigue and require more recovery time, potentially leading to inconsistent workout routines. On the other hand, low impact exercises are less taxing on the body, making it easier for individuals to stick with their exercise plans consistently, which is crucial for long-term weight loss.
While they may not seem as intense as their high-impact counterparts, many low impact exercises can contribute to building lean muscle mass. Muscles are metabolically active tissues, meaning they burn calories even at rest, thereby increasing your overall daily calorie expenditure (6).
Suitable for All
Not everyone can safely engage in high-impact exercises due to age, physical condition, or existing injuries. Low impact exercises provide an accessible way for a wider range of people to stay active and burn calories.
Reduced Risk of Injury and Overtraining
High-impact exercises, when done excessively, can lead to injuries, forcing individuals to take breaks from their workout routines. This can hinder weight loss progress. Low impact exercises reduce this risk, allowing for consistent training (3).
Can You Tone With Low Impact Exercises?
Yes, you can definitely tone your body with low impact exercises. Toning involves both losing excess body fat and strengthening your muscles, and low impact exercises can contribute to both these aspects.
Here’s how low impact exercises help in toning:
Many low impact exercises engage multiple muscle groups at once. For example, swimming works almost every muscle in your body, helping to strengthen and tone them. Similarly, Pilates and yoga are excellent for engaging your core, improving muscle tone and strength (7).
Building Lean Muscle Mass
While high-impact exercises often focus on cardiovascular fitness, many low impact exercises are more strength-oriented. They help in building lean muscle mass, which is key to achieving a toned physique (5).
As mentioned earlier, low impact exercises can help burn calories, thereby contributing to fat loss. When combined with a healthy diet, this can lead to a decrease in body fat percentage, allowing your toned muscles to show.
The sustainability of low impact exercises means that you can do them consistently, which is crucial for muscle toning. Consistency is key when it comes to strength training and muscle building.
Flexibility and Balance
Low impact exercises such as yoga not only help in toning your muscles but can also improve your flexibility and balance. Improved flexibility can lead to better performance and muscle growth in the long run (3).
Reduced Risk of Injury
High-impact exercises can sometimes lead to injury if not done correctly, which can set back your progress. Low impact exercises are generally safer, allowing you to maintain your routine and continue working towards your toning goals (3).
What Are The Best Low Impact Exercises?
The best low impact exercises are those that engage multiple muscle groups, offer cardiovascular benefits, and can be sustained for long durations without putting undue stress on your joints. The “best” exercise may vary from person to person, depending on individual fitness levels, goals, and preferences.
Here are some of the best low impact exercises:
Walking is a straightforward, accessible form of low impact exercise that can be done by virtually anyone, anywhere. It’s an ideal low impact workout at home for beginners and seniors alike.
Walking is low impact because it keeps one foot on the ground at all times, reducing stress on the joints. It’s effective for cardiovascular health, weight management, and improving mood. To maintain its low impact nature while increasing intensity, consider adding intervals or hills to your walks.
Cycling, either stationary or outdoor, is a fantastic low impact workout that targets your lower body and core. It’s considered low impact as it doesn’t put pressure on your joints, making it suitable as a low impact cardio workout for beginners.
Cycling is effective for cardiovascular fitness, muscle toning, and weight loss. You can increase the resistance or speed to boost the challenge without impacting the joints.
Swimming is a full body low impact workout that is effective for muscle toning, strength building, and cardiovascular health. It’s low impact because the buoyancy of water supports your body, reducing stress on the joints.
Swimming can burn significant calories, contributing to weight loss. To maintain its low impact nature while upping the intensity, try different strokes or incorporate speed intervals.
Yoga is a versatile low impact workout at home that enhances flexibility, strength, balance, and mental wellness. It’s low impact as most poses are static or involve smooth transitions, minimizing joint stress.
Yoga can also aid in weight loss by building lean muscle and enhancing mindfulness, which can lead to healthier eating habits. To keep yoga low impact while increasing difficulty, try more advanced poses or flow sequences.
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Pilates involves controlled movements that build strength, particularly in the core. It’s a great low impact workout at home for weight loss, as it helps develop lean muscle mass, which enhances metabolism.
Pilates is low impact due to its focus on slow, controlled movements with minimal joint strain. To ramp up the intensity without increasing impact, add props like resistance bands or pilates balls.
Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that involves slow, controlled movements and deep breathing. It’s a low impact workout that’s particularly beneficial for seniors, as it improves balance, flexibility, and strength.
Tai Chi is low impact due to its gentle movements and constant foot contact with the ground. It can be made more challenging by mastering complex forms or practicing longer sessions.
Using an elliptical trainer provides a low impact cardio workout that can burn significant calories. It’s low impact because your feet remain in the pedals, reducing joint stress. This exercise is effective for cardiovascular fitness, weight loss, and toning the upper and lower body. To boost the intensity while keeping it low impact, increase the resistance or incline on the machine.
Rowing, whether on a machine or in the water, offers a full body low impact workout. It’s low impact because it doesn’t involve hard impact on the joints.
Rowing is effective for building strength, boosting cardiovascular fitness, and promoting weight loss. To make rowing more challenging while maintaining its low impact nature, increase the resistance on your machine or quicken your pace.
Step aerobics is a fun, rhythmic low impact workout that boosts cardiovascular health and tones the lower body. It’s low impact because, while it involves stepping up and down, it can be done without jumping which limits any joint stress. To make step aerobics more intense while keeping it low impact, add arm movements or increase the height of your step.
Water aerobics offers a low impact cardio workout that’s particularly suitable for those with bad knees. The buoyancy of water reduces impact on the joints, making it low impact. It’s effective for cardiovascular fitness, strength building, and weight loss. To intensify water aerobics without increasing impact, use water weights or perform faster movements.
Bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges can be tailored to provide a low impact workout at home. They’re low impact when done without jumping or fast, jerky movements. These exercises are effective for building strength and toning muscles. To enhance the challenge while keeping it low impact, increase the number of reps or sets.
Stability Ball Exercises
Stability ball exercises can target various muscle groups, making them a component of the best low impact workout routines. They’re low impact because they involve controlled movements with minimal joint strain.
These exercises are effective for core strengthening, muscle toning, and improving balance. To make them more challenging while maintaining their low impact nature, try exercises that require more balance or incorporate weights.
Seated exercises, like seated leg raises, offer a low impact workout for seniors or those with mobility issues. They’re low impact because they’re performed sitting down, reducing stress on the joints.
These exercises are effective for improving flexibility, building strength, and enhancing circulation. To intensify seated exercises while keeping them low impact, add more reps or use resistance bands.
Low Impact Dance Classes
Low impact dance classes, like Zumba, provide a fun, engaging low impact cardio workout at home. They’re low impact as they’re designed with movements that reduce joint stress.
These classes are effective for improving cardiovascular health, boosting mood, and promoting weight loss. To make these classes more challenging while keeping them low impact, incorporate larger movements or use light hand weights.
Is It Ok To Do Low Impact Workout Everyday?
Yes, it is generally safe and even beneficial to do low impact workouts every day. Low impact exercises are designed to minimize stress on your joints and muscles, making them a sustainable form of physical activity that can be performed daily.
One of the key benefits of low impact exercises is that they reduce the risk of injury and overtraining, which are common issues with high-intensity or high-impact workouts. This makes low impact workouts ideal for daily exercise, as they allow your body to recover more quickly and efficiently.
However, variety and balance are also crucial in any fitness routine. Even within low impact exercises, it’s beneficial to mix it up and engage in different types of workouts. For example, you could alternate between walking, swimming, yoga, and resistance training throughout the week.
This ensures that different muscle groups are targeted and reduces the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
Also, while low impact workouts are generally safe for daily exercise, it’s essential to listen to your body and rest if needed. If you’re feeling overly tired, experiencing pain, or noticing a decrease in performance, it might be a sign that you need a rest day.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should a Low Impact Workout Be?
Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, which could be broken down into 30-minute sessions five days a week.
If you’re performing low impact cardio exercises such as walking, cycling, or using an elliptical trainer, a steady and sustained period of 30 minutes or more is often recommended. This duration allows for significant cardiovascular benefits while maintaining the low impact nature of these activities.
For strength training activities using low impact movements, such as Pilates or resistance band exercises, the duration can be shorter. A typical workout might involve performing several exercises for 20 seconds each, with a short rest period in between.
How Many Calories Is a Low Impact Cardio Workout?
The number of calories burned during a low impact cardio workout can vary widely based on factors like the specific exercise, intensity, duration, and individual’s body weight. However, on average, you can expect to burn between 150-300 calories in a 30-minute session.
Which Is Better, Low Impact or High Impact Workout?
Neither is categorically “better” – it depends on individual fitness goals, health conditions, and personal preference. Low impact workouts are gentler on the joints and great for beginners, seniors, or those with injuries, while high impact workouts can potentially offer quicker results in terms of cardiovascular fitness and weight loss, but come with a higher risk of injury.
Can You Build Muscle With Low Impact Workouts?
Yes, you can build muscle with low impact strength training workouts. These workouts are designed to improve muscle strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness without placing excessive stress or strain on your joints.
The Bottom Line
Low Impact Workouts are a sustainable and gentle way to boost fitness levels, ideal for beginners. They offer numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, muscle strength, flexibility, and balance, all while minimally stressing the joints.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Physical Activity for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases in the Elderly (2022,nihy.gov)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021,harvard.edu)
- Effect of Low-intensity Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Health in Older Adults: a Systematic Review (2015,nih.gov)
- Low Impact Exercises for Joint Pain (2015,nih.gov)
- Low-intensity exercise can increase muscle mass and strength proportionally to enhanced metabolic stress under ischemic conditions (2012,nih.gov)
- Muscle cells vs. fat cells (2020,medlineplus.gov)
- The Impacts of Pilates and Yoga on Health-Promoting Behaviors and Subjective Health Status (2021,nih.gov)