5 Types of Low-Impact Workouts

5 Types of Low-Impact Workouts

(Last Updated On: March 22, 2020)

Cathe Low-Impact Workouts

Many of the most popular workouts are high impact in nature. High-impact exercise is where both feet leave the floor at the same time. Examples are running, sprinting, and any training that involves jumping. High-impact exercise boosts your heart rate fast since you’re working the sizeable muscle groups in your lower body. However, they aren’t a suitable option if you have joint problems, a history of osteoporosis, or a current injury. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t get an effective workout with low-intensity training.

Many people think of low-intensity exercise as less vigorous, but it doesn’t have to be. If you pick up the pace when you do low-intensity movements, you’ll still get your heart rate up enough to get a cardiovascular workout. Plus, low-impact exercise places less strain on your joints. In addition, on days you’re fatigued or sore but still need to move, a low-intensity, low-impact workout might fit the bill.

Now that you know why you might do a low-impact workout, what are your options? Let’s look at some possibilities for working out with less stress on your joints and the pros and cons of each.

Spin Workouts

Spin workouts are fun and effective! Plus, they improve cardiovascular fitness without stressing your joints. In fact, spinning is one of the best ways to get a vigorous cardiovascular workout with no impact. To make the workout more intense, increase the tempo and resistance against which you pedal. Cycling burns an average of 500 calories per hour. In addition, cycling boosts muscular endurance and stamina in a safe and low-impact manner. You can also strengthen the muscles in your lower body, including your quads and hamstrings during a spin workout by increasing the resistance. Get ready to work hard, with this joint-friendly, low-impact workout!

Interval Walking

Walking is low impact, in contrast to running, since only one foot leaves the ground at a time. Walking at a low to moderate steady pace won’t give the same cardiovascular benefits as vigorous exercise, but you can make a walk tougher by alternating intervals of walking at a slow, steady pace with intervals where you walk as fast as you can. Another way to boost the intensity is to add hills or inclines. When you raise the incline, you’ll recruit your glute muscles more for a stronger bottom line. Plus, you can walk on a treadmill or take a brisk walk outdoors. But as with all forms of exercise, you need to challenge yourself more overtime to keep improving your stamina.

Low-Impact Circuit Training

You can use circuit training to strengthen your entire body while still getting cardiovascular benefits. If you don’t rest, or rest minimally between exercises your heart rate will stay up enough to boost the health of your heart. To do a circuit workout, choose 5 or 6 strength-training movements that alternate between upper and lower body and do them without resting between exercises. Repeat the sequence until at least 20 minutes have elapsed.

To increase the cardiovascular benefits, include a low-impact cardio exercise, such as vigorous marching in place or punches between strength exercises to keep your heart rate up. Circuit training is a way to get a low-impact, total body workout in a brief time with lots of variety so you never get bored.

Power Yoga

Power yoga is a more aerobic form of yoga since you move quickly from exercise to exercise without stopping to rest or let your heart rate drop. Plus, the exercises are challenging enough to build some strength, all without impact. Yoga has stress-relieving benefits too. It’s a multipurpose exercise that only builds strength up to a certain point since you’re only using your own body weight. It also won’t boost cardiovascular endurance. So, to maximize strength gains and gains in stamina and endurance, including strength training and low-impact cardiovascular training in your routine.

Rowing Machine

If you have a rowing machine, taking a row is another way to get a low-impact workout that will boost your heart rate and build muscular endurance in your upper body. In fact, when you move your arms vigorously in this manner, you recruit core muscles too for a stronger mid-section. You can even use a rowing machine to do a high-intensity interval workout by rowing as fast as possible for brief periods and then bring the intensity down. Switch back and forth between slow rowing and vigorous rowing. Prepare to sweat!

Water Workouts

Some health care providers recommend that people with joint problems do water workouts to reduce the impact on their joints. However, water aerobics isn’t as challenging as land-based training, so it’s best if you want to work out in the water, alternate water workouts with more intense options such as spinning and circuit workouts. Plus, some studies show swimming and doing aerobics in cool water increases hunger. So, it may not be the best form of exercise for weight loss.

Other Tips for Exercising with Painful Joints

One reason people do low-impact workouts is that high impact one’s cause joint pain. The good news is regular exercise increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to the joint. Studies show exercise reduces pain and stiffness and improves function in people with arthritis. So, don’t skip it! Plus, exercise helps with weight loss. The more weight you lose, the less stress you place on your joints when you stand, move, or climb stairs.

Here are some ways to get the most out of a low-impact workout:

Always start with a dynamic warm-up to increase the temperature of your muscles and tendons. At the end of your workouts, stretch and apply ice if your joints feel sore. During a workout, stop if you feel pain.  Cross-train too. Repetitive movements can worsen joint pain and cause overuse injuries. Be sure to use excellent form with every exercise you do. When strength training, focus on quality rather than the amount of weight you use. If you have arthritis, get your health care provider’s okay before launching into an exercise program.



  • Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Apr 24;4:CD011279. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011279.pub3.
  • Musculoskeletal Care. 2018 Mar;16(1):13-17. doi: 10.1002/msc.1193. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


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4 thoughts on “5 Types of Low-Impact Workouts

  1. I have knee pain, but what I really love is step aerobics. What I really love about it even though your going up and down on the step your moving your knee in different directions. Your not moving on the step up and down like you would be like in jogging. Also, in aerobics you could be jumping on your knees, in step aerobics there is very little jumping (unless you are Cathe Advance Step). Also, you are concentrating on what movement you are doing or diving next, so you don’t notice pain. Mostly step aerobics you have one foot on the ground, which is low impact, but you are going on the step, so you are building strength in your knees and legs. Also, it is great for your cardiovascular system too.

    You can do any step workout besides Cathe to achieve it. But, I love Cathe step workouts because of the easy flow and her cueing.

    But, if your knees hurt with ste, do something else. That is my opinion and it varies with different people.

  2. Hi, Cathe. I love spinning/biking, but I am not so much in standing during my spinning classes. Is it mandatory or I can still get a good workout if I just spin at a good pace, with the right resistance?

  3. As a certified Aquatic Teacher and Group Ex Instructor, what you are saying about the pool couldn’t be farther from the truth. My students burn up to 500 calories in an hour in the water. It’s just as good as land or maybe better. Sincerely, Judy Siek.

  4. I have knee pain too…I no longer do step on an 8 inch step, but have found using the lowest step and/or doing step on the floor with no step is effective and allows me to do some of my favorite step workouts in spite of my knee pain. You will still get a good workout, trust me.

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