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Take It Easy: 21 Unexpected Low-Impact Workouts
Every now and then, we have to give the body a break from excessive pounding (read: running, dance classes, and contact sports). Luckily, low-impact workouts are typically less hard on the body, especially our joints, and can be a great way to get in a heart-pumping workout while reducing the risk of injury   . Plus, it's a no-brainer that exercise is great for keeping the heart healthy and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease — something that's never too early to start thinking about  .
Most trainers define low-impact exercises as motions where one foot stays on the ground at all times. But rather than doing single-leg deadlifts until keeling over, we figured it’d be best to round up 21 low- (or no!) impact exercises to keep things varied and full o’ fun.
Get Low (Impact) — Your Action Plan
1. Walking: These boots are made for walking, so perhaps we should listen up. Walking is a stress-free way to stay movin’. And tweaking that walking routine can really heat things up: Hit the hills, add dumbbells, or weighted ankle or wrist straps to really get that heart rate up .
2. Rowing machine: Spice up the cardio routine and bring the water sports to the gym? Yes, please. The rowing machine (impact not included) is an intense and fun way to workout those arms, back, legs, and core. Score!
3. Kayaking: Want to actually hit the water? Grab a kayak and jump on in! Kayaking works the arms and core (no crunches necessary) and can burn up to 400 calories an hour while seeing some stellar sights.
4. Strength training: We suggested 20 reasons to strength train, and here is one more: Most strength training exercises are low-impact and still work up a sweat . (Keep in mind those monster box jumps wearing a weighted vest doesn't exactly qualify.) Try squats, lunges, or supermans!
6. Water aerobics: If laps in the pool gets repetitive, bring the aerobics class to the water and start treading or doing the pike scull. Some gyms even offer treadmills in the pool to really keep things interesting. (We may want to rethink calling them "dreadmills.")
7. Yoga: It’s no tackle football, but the NFL pros are doing it. So ease up and add some spinal twists and half moons to that fitness routine. Or try aerial yoga to really lift the stress off the ground.
8. Elliptical: Sorry treadmill, elliptical takes the cake when it comes to putting less stress on those legs. Try spicing up the routine with these workout ideas, while getting in a sneaky arm workout, too.
9. Stairmaster: Not all gyms have staircases, but they probably have a Stairmaster. (Which is obviously way more exciting than a treadmill.) No gym nearby? No problem. Hit the real stairs.
10. Cycling: Thank mom and dad for teaching us to take off the training wheels. Hopping on the bike is a fun way to fit in some exercise, with a lower chance of damaging the joints. Once the wheels start turning, you’ll be talking like a pro.
11. Step aerobics: For a good cardio workout without all the poundage, research suggests pulling out the step platform . Some say an hour of step aerobics could be equivalent to a mid-distance run.
12. Tai Chi: Try some meditation in motion to give those bones a break. This gentle, fluid movement may also help ward off headaches, helping to improve flexibility, too . (Whether that includes a hangover headache is unclear.)
13. Hiking: Another way to spice up a walk is to add some hiking terrain (opt for flatter areas, though, to keep impact to a minimum). Ready to strap on the boots and hit the woods? Just make sure to stay in-the-know about hiking do's and don'ts.
14. Cross country skiing: This flat-terrain travel keeps things heated — even in the snow. So strap on the skis and start pumping those poles. You’ll keep the pressure light (as snow) on the body.
15. Rock climbing: To take off some stress, head to the nearest wall (err, rock wall, that is!). Climbing movements are typically slow and controlled, which works the muscles without the added strain .
16. Pilates: High-impact sports won’t magically give us six-pack abs, that we know. The potential solution? Just roll out the mat for a quick Pilates session to strengthen the core and help increase flexibility.
17. Golf: Now, now — golf isn’t just for the pros (or the retired). Take a trip to the fairway and get that swing on. Bonus points for skipping the golf cart and walking the course!
18. TRX: Also known as “Total Body Resistance Exercise,” TRX is a strap suspension system (say that three times fast) that’s easy on the joints but a challenge on the body. Head to the nearest gym to learn the ropes.
19. Snowshoeing: For a different kind of walk in the park, snowshoeing is the way to go. Working against the resistance of the snow will expend more energy than walking on dry land, while staying tame on the body .
20. Ballroom dancing: Take a tip from “Dancing With the Stars.” Not only is dancing super sexy, it’s often easy on the body and a guaranteed great workout . So go grab a partner and give those dips, twirls, and whirls a spin!
Do you mix things up with some of these lower-impact workouts? Have a favorite on the list? Tell us below!
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- Effects of low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise training with and without wrist weights on functional capacities and mood states in older adults. Engels, H.J., Drouin, J., Zhu, W., et al. Division of HPR, Exercise Science, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. Gerontology, 1998;44(4):239-44.⤴
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- Osteogenic index of step exercise depending on choreographic movements, session duration, and stepping rate. Santos-Rocha, R.A., Oliverira, C.S., Veloso, A.P. Sports Sciences School of Rio Maior, Portugal. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2006 Oct;40(10):860-6; discussion 866. Epub 2006 Aug 18.⤴
- A Randomized Controlled Trial of Tai Chi for Tension Headaches. Abbott, R.B., Hui, K.K., Hays, R.D., et al. Center for East West Medicine, Department of Medicine and Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2007 Mar;4(1):107-113. Epub 2006 Aug 12.⤴
- Functional ankle control of rock climbers. Schweizer, A>, Bircher, H.P., Kaelin, X, et al. Kantonsspital Liestal, Orthopaedic Department, Rheinstrasse 26, Liestal 4410, Switzerland. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2005 Jul;39(7):429-31.⤴
- The energy expenditure of snowshoeing in packed vs. unpacking snow at low-level walking speeds. Connolly, DA. Human Performance Laboratory, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2002 Nov;16(4):606-10⤴
- The metabolic cost of two ranges of arm position height with and without hand weights during low impact aerobic dance. Carroll, M.W., Otto, R.M., Wygand, J. Human Performance Lab, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1991 Dec;62(4):420-3.⤴
Comments Leave a comment
I'm sorry, but isn't real step aerobics NOT low impact? Item #11 may need to be qualified
@DelfEnriquez Hi there, thanks for your comment! It's tricky, but step-aerobics is considered low impact (though high energy!). Based on a lot of research, studies also consider it less jarring on the joints. (It was actually created by a teacher w/ a knee injury and used for rehabilitation.) Since one foot remains on the ground while the rest of the body works to go through the stepping motions, it's still low-impact. Of course, kayaking is always a good second choice :)
Good day! When I saw the pic in the email today I saw the word 'rowing' with a kayak and kayaking paddles. Was very happy to see you all not mix the two up as so often happens.
If you really want to amp up kayaking / canoeing, try flatwater sprint kayaking. These are the Olympic boats and requires full-body movements as the stroke begins in the legs. As you grab the water at the catch, you explode with energy in the water with your legs, twisting your core and pulling some with arms. An amazing workout!
@kayakjim Flatwater sprint kayaking sounds so awesome — a great full-body workout! I have never heard of it; is it popular among kayakers?
Hey Iscwech! It is not well known in the U.S. though is a HUGE international sport. You can do a search for sprint kayaking online and come up with lots of info.
www.USACK.org is the home for this discipline though there are variants within the ACA (American Canoe Association).
Clubs for this are scattered across the States. We are blessed here in Georgia to have Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club (www.lckc.org), which is an off-shoot of the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
You can also do a search for Morgan House videos. Morgan ended his quest for the Team this year though he has posted some amazing footage online.
On the LCKC facebook page I have posted hundreds of photos from last weekends Marathon team trials, long distance paddling in these very same boats!
It is an amazing workout. I was racing mountain and road bikes when I followed my daughter into this in 2001, an dropped 2 inches on waist within six months. I am now 52 and in the best shape of my life!
I am a Greatist
thanks for sharing Laura!
Rock climbing may not be 'high impact' but I assure you it is highly degenerative to the body. Climbers are especially prone to arthritis in their hands and wrists.