When you want to lose weight, you want to be able to do it without feeling like you’re working too hard.
When you’re trying to focus on a new diet and exercise plan, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there. There are so many different things you can do and so many different ideas about what works best that it can feel like everything is just a jumble of competing facts.
And if you’re like most people, you don’t have the time or energy to try every single thing on your list—you just want something simple that will get results.
That’s where low impact exercise comes in! Low impact exercises are exercises that use your body weight as resistance instead of weights or other equipment. They use your own body as its own source of resistance, so there’s no need for any special equipment or extra exertion.
Right here on Buy and Slay, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on low impact workout benefits, best low impact cardio, low impact workout for obese beginners, and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.
Best Low Impact Exercise For Weight Loss
Low-impact workouts are those that put little to no pressure on your joints — think walking, swimming, yoga, cycling and the elliptical. Unlike higher-impact activities, like running, plyometrics and gymnastics, there’s no hard pounding when your feet hit the ground, and you have at least one foot on the ground throughout the workout. So you’re less likely to feel sore or get injured during or after exercise.
Low-impact workouts can be a good fit for just about any workout plan or fitness goal. “Low-impact exercises are great for individuals who are new to working out or athletes recovering from an injury,” explains Kevin Robinson, PT, an orthopedic certified specialist , doctor of science at the Performance Therapy Institute in Franklin, Tennessee. “They’re also good for rest days to recover from a higher-impact workout”
Even though low-impact exercises are easy on your joints, they can still give you a challenging sweat session.
“While most high-impact exercises are also high intensity, it’s possible for low-impact exercises to be either high- or low-intensity,” explains Cathy Richards, an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)-certified exercise physiologist. You can make walking, cycling or swimming more challenging, for instance, just by picking up the pace.
How Low-Impact Exercise Helps With Weight Loss
Exercise, in general, can help you lose weight because it gets your body moving, helping you expend more calories, build muscle and burn fat. But low-impact exercises can be just as beneficial as high-impact ones, like burpees and box jumps, for weight loss.
“A low-impact workout can help with weight loss by contributing to total calories burned,” Richards says. “We burn fewer calories per minute with low-intensity exercise, but the tradeoff is we can sustain the exercise for longer.”
That can be particularly beneficial if you have a lot of weight to lose or you’re dealing with joint pain, according to the Obesity Medicine Association and the American Council on Exercise.
In fact, in one small September 2014 study published in the Journal of Exercise, Nutrition & Biochemistry, women living with obesity significantly reduced their abdominal fat and improved their insulin resistance after 12 weeks of walking 50 to 70 minutes three days per week.
Low-impact exercise allows you to “exercise pain-free or with less pain, and have less risk of furthering joint injury and inflammation,” Robinson says. And the more comfortable you feel, the more likely you’ll be able to keep up a regular workout regimen.
The key is paying attention to the length and intensity of your workout. To burn the same amount of calories through low-impact exercise, you’ll have to find ways to push yourself without increasing the impact, Robinson explains.
For example, you could walk at a brisk pace instead of taking a leisurely stroll, or add high-intensity intervals to your swimming workout.
Low-Impact Exercise for Weight Loss Is More Effective With a Healthy Diet
No matter what kind of workouts you do, a combination of exercise and dietary changes is far more effective for driving down the number on the scale compared to just exercise alone, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For that reason, it can be helpful to think of physical activity as a way to make your food changes even more effective.
For example, in an October 2017 study in The Journal of Nutrition, adding moderate walking to their calorie-restrictive diet significantly improved adults’ weight-loss results.
But there’s no one type of eating plan that’s best for weight loss. It’s about getting into the habit of choosing wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains— and taking in fewer calories.
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in, and by sticking to nutrient-dense foods instead of processed ones, which tend to pack on calories and fat, you can maintain a calorie deficit.
Using an app to track your food intake can help you get started. “When you track what you eat and quickly see the calories really add up, you’re more likely to recognize where you can make changes,” Robinson says.
Download the MyPlate app to track your calories consumed and burned for a complete picture of your overall health.
The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Weight Loss
When looking for a low-impact exercise that can help you reach your weight-loss goals, opt for activities that allow you to ramp up the intensity and help build lean, metabolically active. That’ll help you burn more calories — and more body fat — faster.
Here are some of the best low-impact exercises for weight loss to try.
You may not think of them as cardio, but in addition to toning your muscles, many barre-inspired workouts can also torch plenty of calories and boost your metabolism! Ballet-inspired workouts that combine the use of light weights with sculpting moves done at a cardio pace can have you burning up to 650 calories per class, says Laurie Alfano, director of education for Xtend Barre, a barre program that incorporates cardio sequences before each sculpting circuit to increase calorie burn by as much as 20 percent.
Boost your burn: Using hand weights, resistance bands, or props like small balls while performing exercises can really amp up your calorie burn, Alfano says. Resistance of any sort “makes your heart work harder, exactly the way it would when you sprint during a typical jog,” she adds.
Cycling (indoors or out) is one of the best low-impact cardiovascular workouts that you can do, says Amy Dixon, a Schwinn master trainer and creator of the Breathless Body DVD series. “You will never put unnecessary pressure on your joints if you ride with the right amount of resistance,” she says. Find your sweet spot with the resistance when riding on an indoor bike (gear if outdoors), and pedal at the right revolutions per minute (RPM) to maximize your burn in the saddle, she says. Try 60 to 80 rpms for hilly terrain, 80 to 100 for flat roads, and 100 to 110 for sprints. Plan to pedal off, on average, about 600 to 750 calories an hour during your ride, she says.
Boost your burn: One of the best ways to increase your calorie burn on the bike is to use intervals that are constantly changing in both timing and type (hills, sprints, etc.) from ride to ride, Dixon says. For example, if you’ve been doing typical Tabata drills (20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest), try 40 seconds of all-out, breathless effort followed by 20 seconds of recovery, for 6 rounds. In between intervals, work on climbing powerfully at a moderate to hard intensity. You’ll definitely get the most out of your workouts, Dixon says.
Dancing around in water may seem a little silly, but it’s one serious calorie-torching (and refreshing) workout that’s also super entertaining! The water creates a safe, low-impact environment that’s easier on your knees, feet, and hips than hard dance floors, while also providing extra resistance during your moves—meaning those dance numbers provide both cardio and strength benefits, says Kim Truman, a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. Adding the sizzling energy of Zumba to water creates a low-impact, calorie-blasting combo (about 700 calories an hour) that offers plenty of freedom and fun, she says.
Boost your burn: Increase the speed of your steps, consciously engaging your core muscles and maintaining great posture, to maximize your burn. You can also add in more upper-body movement and continue to move in between songs (try marching or bouncing in place) instead of taking a break, Truman says. She also recommends wearing aqua shoes to help you move better, change direction faster, and protect your feet while you jam out in the pool.
Power yoga is an amazingly effective, low-impact way to stay strong and lean, says Ivy Larson, an ACSM-certified health and fitness specialist and creator of Clean Cuisine. “I credit power yoga with keeping me fit after I recovered from a major orthopedic surgery last year. Even though I couldn’t walk, I could still do yoga, and I stayed very strong, lean, and surprisingly fit,” she says.
Offering an average burn of about 400 calories an hour, power yoga is a total-body workout that strengthens, keeps your heart rate elevated, and increases oxygen uptake—all of which helps boost your burn, she says. “The reason power yoga is effective is because it uses a lot of oxygen (which burns calories), and instead of isolating small muscles, you use your entire body, which burns a lot calories and generates a lot of heat.”
Boost your burn: Try to avoid letting your mind wander and really concentrate on what you’re doing, Larson says. “Focus, breathe, and stay in the moment to really feel your muscles working.” Not only will you burn more calories by properly performing the exercise and engaging all the right muscles, you may also reduce your risk of injury due to your increased attention on form and alignment.
Rowing at a vigorous intensity not only offers a burn of about 600 calories an hour (similar to running), it’s also a total-body workout that really targets the core, says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.
Boost your burn: Stay safe and keep your stroke effective by powering up from your lower body (not your arms), Matthews says. “Focus on pushing back with power from your legs and let the arms and back follow (meaning you should be hinging at your hips as you do so),” she explains. Maintaining proper posture (avoid rounding your back and neck forward) and powering up through the larger muscles in your legs can help translate to a bigger overall calorie burn and, more importantly, a safer rowing experience.
Walking is not only a fun, convenient, and cost-effective form of low-impact exercise, but research shows it can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol (LDL) and improve bone mineral density. Walking is also a proven weight maintenance tool—according to the National Weight Control Registry, it’s the most popular activity cited by people who’ve lost weight and kept it off long-term, Matthews says.
Boost your burn: Moving at a brisk pace on a firm surface burns about 350 calories an hour, but according to Matthews, there are various ways to boost your burn while walking! She recommends picking up the pace (ramping up from 4.0 to 4.5mph burns an extra 93 calories an hour), or walking slower on an incline (walking uphill at 3.5mph for one hour burns about 72 calories more than walking on a flat surface). Adding resistance can also help you torch more calories with every step. Try wearing a weighted vest (a vest is preferable to holding dumbbells or wearing ankle or wrist weights which can stress the joints) or using Nordic walking poles, Matthews says.
Injured or not, the total-body benefits and calorie burn of swimming (about 716 calories an hour) make it well worth seeking out a pool! “The resistance that the water provides makes movements more challenging, enabling your muscles to work hard while simultaneously reducing the impact forces on your joints,” Matthews says. “Plus, because this type of activity uses your entire body, you get a great bang for your buck—swimming improves your cardiorespiratory fitness while also strengthening everything from your arms and back to your core and legs.”
Boost your burn: Improve your caloric output by alternating between different strokes such as breaststroke (which burns the same number of calories as swimming freestyle) and/or butterfly (which burns an extra 72 calories in 60 minutes, compared to freestyle or breaststroke). And ensure the safety and effectiveness of each stroke by focusing on your form—make sure all five fingers dive under the water together with your palm facing down, she says. “If your thumb is entering the water first, you’re likely over rotating your shoulder, which can put you at risk for a shoulder strain.”
Prefer doing your cardio outdoors? Rollerblading (or inline skating) is a fun, low-impact option that allows you to torch some serious calories (about 860 in one hour) while soaking up some sun, Matthews says.
Boost your burn: Focus on spending more time skating and less time “gliding,” Matthews says. Interval training is a great way to do this. Try alternating periods of high-intensity “sprinting” (or skating as fast as you safely can) with an active recovery (skating at a moderate pace) with either a 1:1 (1 minute on, 1 minute off) or 1:2 (1 minute of hard effort, 2 minutes of recovery) work to rest ratio.
Low Impact Workout Benefits
As popular as plyometrics are — especially for home workouts — low-impact activities like swimming, cycling and weightlifting are often touted for their joint-friendly properties. But low-impact workouts have more to offer than just being easy on your joints — a lot more, according to fitness experts.
Here, they outline the less discussed advantages of incorporating low-impact workouts into your routine.
REDUCED RISK OF MOBILITY-RELATED INJURY
Aside from the reduced risk of joint issues, there are other ways low-impact workouts minimize your injury risk. “For high-impact exercises, you need more mobility than you might realize,” says Jill Brown, a certified functional strength coach. “If your ankles or hips don’t have good mobility, you’re more likely to get hurt trying to jump higher or go faster.”
LESS RECOVERY TIME
“High-impact workouts call for a significant amount of downtime to recover,” says Christa Dellebovi, a personal trainer and director of fitness and education at CLMBR. This can translate into more frequent sessions. “Low-impact exercise routines allow you to cut back on rest days while still being able to achieve benefits of regular exercise.”
INCREASED STABILITY AND BALANCE
“Lots of times with high-impact workouts or dynamic movements, you are moving so rapidly that the body does not have time to stabilize, and you’re more concerned with the performance of that movement than with the mechanics of the body,” says Michelle Houston, a certified personal trainer. “Lots of low-impact workouts emphasize slow, stationary or single-leg activities which allow you to take more time in a movement to really establish balance in the body.”
IT FOSTERS BETTER TECHNIQUE AND ALIGNMENT
Because low-impact movements are often slower-paced, you have more time to focus on the mind-muscle connection. This leads to better results from your workouts in the long term, among other advantages: “This is extremely beneficial when learning new exercises, so you don’t create poor muscle patterns that, over time, can cause additional strain on your joints and connective tissue,” says Samantha Parker, a certified personal trainer and yoga therapist.
INCREASED RANGE OF MOTION
You’re more likely to use your full range of motion in low-impact exercises as opposed to high-impact ones, which can help increase flexibility and strength, according to Alissa Tucker, AKT master trainer. “Going through your full range of motion is important to keep the optimal length and strength of your muscles and reduce muscle imbalances and potential injury. It also helps you raise your heart rate even if you’re not doing designated ‘cardio’ moves.”
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE GAINS
If you’re hoping to get stronger, low-impact workouts are a must. Compare a jump squat to a weighted squat, for example. “Faster movements can actually be easier, as momentum helps you ‘cheat’ with the force being generated,” Parker explains. “When you slow the exercises down, the muscles are forced to work for a longer duration.”
GREAT FOR BEGINNERS
“Low-impact workouts can feel ‘easier,’ which can increase self-esteem, fueling the fire in continuing to stay on track with your workouts,” Parker says. And, keep in mind: Just because you’re not drenched in sweat doesn’t mean you didn’t get a great workout.
OPTIMAL FOR BURNING BODY FAT
“Low-impact workouts can burn more body fat per session,” says Jason Kozma, a certified personal trainer. This is because high-impact workouts put the body into the anaerobic zone, where your heart rate will be higher, but you’re less likely to use fat as fuel. You’re more efficient at burning fat at a lower heart rate. “People often read the value of a workout according to how exhausted they are at the end of the workout, but this often doesn’t translate directly into the desired results,” Kozma adds.
BETTER FOR YOUR FLOORS … AND NEIGHBORS
“Given the pandemic, a lot of workouts are being done at home,” notes Kevin Munoz, owner of PEAK PT. “High impact is not only high impact on your joints but also on your floors!” Most people don’t have gym flooring in their homes, so both your joints and your house take a beating, Munoz says. If you have downstairs neighbors, high-impact movements might also elicit complaints. If you’re looking to work out at home and keep things quiet, try this 10-move full-body workout.
“We all have days when we feel less than 100% or the idea of jumping around does not sound appealing,” Houston points out. Low-impact workouts are perfect for these days, as you can still get a workout in, no jumping required. More often than not, when you step outside for a walk to go just a few blocks because something is better than nothing, you end up going longer — and definitely not regretting it.
“Low-impact workouts cause less stress to the body both physically and mentally, Brown says. “We’re in a very stressful time in history, and while you might think you want to bust your butt to work off stress, lots of high-impact workouts can actually have the opposite effect and raise your cortisol (stress hormone) levels,” she explains. Low-impact workouts, on the other hand, can reduce stress levels, which is a key step in working toward virtually every health and fitness goal.