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Everything You Need to Know About Low Impact Exercise

Published February 28, 2019 (Revised: January 23, 2020) Read Time: 6 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

low-impact-exercises
<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/01/low-impact-thumbnail-0093.jpg" } }, "headline":"Low-Impact Strength and Cardio Exercises", "datePublished":"2019-02-28", "dateModified": "2020-01-23", "description":"Here are the benefits of low-impact strength and cardio training, plus our 7 favorite low-impact exercises.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/01/low-impact-thumbnail-0093.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What is low-impact exercise?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Low-impact exercises are movements where one foot always stays on the ground. They also can be categorized as exercises designed to minimize stress on your body, especially your joints." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Can I lose weight with low impact exercise?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Yes, absolutely. Any type of exercise will help you lose weight. But if you're just getting into your weight loss routine, low-impact training can be especially useful. In fact, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) encourages new exercisers to begin with low-impact exercise." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Is walking low impact exercise?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Yes, it is. When you walk, one foot always stays on the ground. In fact, from a biomechanics standpoint, that's what separates walking from running." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What are the best low impact exercises?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Stretching, Isometric strength training, Tempo exercises, Walking, Rowing, Swimming, Warrior Made's HIIT workouts" } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What is Low-Impact Exercise?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Can I Lose Weight with Low Impact Exercise?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Is Walking Low Impact Exercise?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What are the Best Low Impact Exercises? (7 Movements)</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Low-Impact Strength and Cardio Exercises: Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Go harder, be faster, get stronger—these are just some of the phrases we think of when describing the ideal exercise routine.</p> <p>A lot of people have it in mind that going as hard as possible is the key to getting results.</p> <p>But it's not always the right type of fitness training for people with limitations, flexibility issues, or for those who are just getting started.</p> <p>That's where low-impact exercises can be extremely beneficial. </p> <p>Anyone can do this type of training, and it offers similar—if not the same—benefits for health, fitness, and weight loss as high-intensity exercise does.</p> <p>Take a look at the benefits of low impact exercise below, plus our 7 favorite types of joint-saving movements. You can do almost all of them in the privacy of your own home!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-exercises-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-exercises-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-exercises-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-exercises-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact exercises"> </picture> <h2 id="section1">What is Low-Impact Exercise?</h2> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-low-impact-exercises-for-seniors/" rel="noreferrer">Low-impact exercises</a> are movements where one foot always stays on the ground.</p> <p>They also can be categorized as exercises designed to minimize stress on your body, especially your joints.</p> <p>You might use low-impact exercise if you have joint pain, exercise limitations, or simply don't have the energy for an all-out workout that day.</p> <h3>Benefits of low-impact exercise</h3> <p>While there are some differences between low and high impact exercise, the benefits of <i>all</i> exercise types are plentiful.</p> <p>Low-impact exercise can<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>:</p> <ul> <li>Increase muscular strength, endurance, coordination and balance</li> <li>Strengthen bones, tendons, and ligaments</li> <li>Reduce your risk of falls or getting injured from falling</li> <li>Increase life expectancy</li> <li>Help reduce your risk of disease (heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, etc.)</li> <li>Improve mental health</li> <li>Improve cognitive function and memory</li> </ul> <p>Low-impact strength and cardio exercises can also help you lose weight, which we'll discuss below.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/losing-weight-low-impact-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/losing-weight-low-impact-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/losing-weight-low-impact-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/losing-weight-low-impact-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="losing weight low impact"> </picture> <h2 id="section2">Can I lose weight with low impact exercise?</h2> <p>Yes, absolutely. Any type of exercise will help you lose weight.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925973/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>But if you're just getting into your weight loss routine, low-impact training can be especially useful.</p> <p>In fact, the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer"><i>United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)</i></a> encourages new exercisers to begin with low-impact exercise.</p> <p>Why? Because it reduces your risk of injuring joints, and gives your muscles and joints a chance to build a foundation of strength, stability, and flexibility.</p> <p>Going too hard, too soon, can lead to injuries. And it's much harder to exercise if you're hurt.</p> <p>By the way: the <i>DHHS</i> guidelines suggest you aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week. (See section: "What are the best low impact exercises?" below for ideas.)</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>Is walking low impact exercise?</h2> <p>Yes, it is. When you walk, one foot always stays on the ground.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17134903" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></p> <p>In fact, from a biomechanics standpoint, that's what separates walking from running. </p> <p>There is a brief flight phase when you run, where both feet leave the ground. The back leg propels your body forward while your front leg travels behind to take your next step.</p> <p>When you walk, one foot remains on the ground at all times. This puts less stress and strain on your ankles, knees, and hips.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4146701/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> <p>(See exercise #4 below for more on walking.)</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>What are the best low impact exercises? (7 movements)</h2> <p>Here are 7 low-impact exercise options for your workouts.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-stretching-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-stretching-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-stretching-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-stretching-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact stretching"> </picture> <h3>1. Stretching</h3> <p>Stretching is an important type of low-impact exercise for two reasons:</p> <ul> <li>First, it's a highly accessible form of exercise (anyone can do it) with many health benefits, such as improved blood flow and muscle function.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29623692" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></li> <li>Second, its primary aim is to improve your joint's range of motion.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3975999/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup> This means stretching can potentially help you do other types of exercise without pain or limitations.</li> </ul> <p>When is the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/when-is-the-best-time-to-stretch/" rel="noreferrer">best time to stretch</a>? It depends on your goals, but there are benefits to practicing mobility before, during, or after you exercise.</p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Do these <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/2-easy-shoulder-stretches-to-increase-mobility/" rel="noreferrer">shoulder stretches</a> before you workout or before you go to bed three times this week.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-isometric-strength-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-isometric-strength-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-isometric-strength-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-isometric-strength-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact isometric strength"> </picture> <h3>2. Isometric strength training</h3> <p>Instead of using your muscles to move a weight, isometric exercises strengthen muscles by forcing them to work together to hold a posture or resist force. </p> <p>It's a considerably safe form of exercise.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5882444/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></p> <p>Examples of isometric exercises include:</p> <ul> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/plank-exercises-to-activate-your-core/" rel="noreferrer">Planks</a> (and variations like side planks)</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-a-hollow-hold/" rel="noreferrer">Hollow holds</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/shoulder-bridge-hold/" rel="noreferrer">Shoulder bridge holds</a></li> </ul> <p>Isometric exercises are also particularly beneficial if you have mobility restrictions or exercise limitations.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4548678/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup></p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Accumulate 2 full minutes in a plank or side plank. Take as many breaks as you need, but try to reach the 2 minute mark in as few sets as possible.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-tempo-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-tempo-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-tempo-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-tempo-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact tempo"> </picture> <h3>3. Tempo exercises</h3> <p>Tempo exercises are <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/functional-training/" rel="noreferrer">functional movements</a> performed at a slow, controlled pace.</p> <p>Because you aren't muscling your way through movements or performing them explosively, tempo exercises are another great form of low-stress movement.</p> <p>Examples of tempo exercises include:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Slow count <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-push-ups/" rel="noreferrer">push ups</a> (or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">modified push ups</a>)</strong>- lower yourself to the floor on a three-second count each rep</li> <li><strong>Slow count <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/how-to-do-squats/" rel="noreferrer">squats</a></strong>- Lower legs and torso to a chair (or as low as you can safely go) on a three-second count</li> <li><strong>Tempo <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-alternating-reverse-lunge/" rel="noreferrer">alternating reverse lunges</a></strong>- Go down into the lunge and come back up on a two or three second count</li> </ul> <p>Tempo exercises, like isometric training, are especially good if you have movement restrictions. Controlling the movement limits your risk of injury and may make them easier to perform without pain.</p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Pick an upper and lower-body exercise (like squats and push-ups) and do 3 sets of 10 on a slow three count.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-walking-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-walking-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-walking-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-walking-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact walking"> </picture> <h3>4. Walking</h3> <p>There's an argument to be made that walking is the most underrated form of low-impact exercise. Just consider these studies:</p> <ul> <li>A <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28794207" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2017 study</a> in the <i>Journal of Nutrition</i> found walking an additional 2.5 hours per week led to additional fat loss for participants trying to lose weight.</li> <li>Similarly, another study found just 30 minutes of walking per day improved several health markers, and bolstered weight loss results.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12439651" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup></li> </ul> <p>You can walk at any pace, for any length of time, and you don't need any equipment. It's the most highly accessible form of exercise available to you, and is proven to get results.</p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Try to do five 30-minute walks this upcoming week. (And don't forget to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-stretches-to-do-before-walking" rel="noreferrer">stretch</a>.)</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-rowing-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-rowing-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-rowing-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-rowing-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact rowing"> </picture> <h3>5. Rowing</h3> <p>If you have gym access, the row machine can be a good form of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/low-impact-cardio/" rel="noreferrer">low-impact cardio</a>. </p> <p>Rowing works the muscles in your legs, your back (lower back and lats), biceps, shoulders, and abs. It's truly a full-body cardio workout.</p> <p>To make the exercise as low-impact as possible, modify the damper setting on the machine (a handle located on the right side). 10 is the highest resistance, while 7 is said to most closely resemble on-water resistance. </p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Row for 10-15 minutes next time you go to the gym. Feel free to start the damper somewhere between 1 and 3, and work your way up.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-swimming-0093.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-swimming-0093.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-swimming-0093.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/low-impact-swimming-LR-0093.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="low impact swimming"> </picture> <h3>6. Swimming</h3> <p>According to the <i>Center for Disease Control</i>, swimming is the fourth most popular form of exercise in the world.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></p> <p>It's no coincidence that it's also a form of exercise almost anyone can do. Accessibility is a big deal when it comes to exercise, and all you need to swim is access to a pool (you can buy a day-pass at a rec center for just a few dollars).</p> <p>You can burn up to 11 calories per <i>minute</i> with swimming, and there's little to no wear-and-tear on your joints.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953338/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup></p> <p><strong>Workout:</strong> Try swimming 5 to 10 laps at a local pool. Take breaks as needed if you haven't swam in a while.</p> <h3>7. Warrior Made's HIIT workouts</h3> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made's exercise program</a> is comprised of low-impact, high-intensity workouts. </p> <p>Built with weight loss and fitness improvements in mind, these workouts can be modified to meet any fitness level. They can also be completed in 30 minutes or less, 3 times per week.</p> <p>And yes, high-intensity workouts like HIIT can be low-impact. All you have to do is remove the high-impact or plyometric (jumping) portion of the regular exercise. </p> <p>For example: </p> <ul> <li>Instead of doing burpees, do <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-burpee-walkout/" rel="noreferrer">burpee walkouts</a>. </li> <li>Instead of doing jump lunges, do <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-couch-split-squat/" rel="noreferrer">split squats</a> or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-alternating-reverse-lunge/" rel="noreferrer">reverse lunges</a>.</li> <li>Instead of doing jumping jacks, do <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/perfect-form-step-jacks/" rel="noreferrer">step jacks</a>.</li> </ul> <p>There are <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results/" rel="noreferrer">beginner</a>, intermediate, and advanced examples of all of our exercises, so you always have the option to reduce the wear-and-tear on your joints.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Low-impact strength and cardio exercises: wrap up</h2> <p>Many people believe that all-out effort, all the time, is the key to results. But low-impact strength and cardio workouts take less of a toll on your body, and can give you the same results if you're consistent.</p> <p>Low-impact exercises are movements where at least one foot stays on the ground. They're also designed to reduce stress on your joints and minimize your risk of injury.</p> <p>The best forms of low-impact exercise you can add to your workouts include:</p> <ul> <li>Stretching</li> <li>Isometric strength training (holding postures instead of moving weights or your bodyweight)</li> <li>Tempo exercises (slow, controlled functional movements)</li> <li>Walking</li> <li>Rowing</li> <li>Swimming</li> <li>Warrior Made's HIIT workouts</li> </ul> <p>The good news about low-impact exercise is that anyone can do it, and it can actually be more beneficial than high-impact if you're just getting into working out again. </p> <p>Head over to the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/" rel="noreferrer">exercise section</a> of our website and give one of our beginner workouts a try.</p> </section> </article>

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