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 easier 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. They’re perfect for when you’re just getting started, dealing with an injury, or just want to try something new!
Your Low (Impact) 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. 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 upper-body workout too.
3. 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 with this quick but crazy effective staircase workout.
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!
5. 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. And you don’t even need to sign up for a spin class. Try this 30-minute cycling workout to keep things interesting and make time fly.
6. 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 work those arms, back, legs, and core. Score!
7. 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.
8. 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.)
9. 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.
10. 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.
Get 11 more low-impact workout ideas.