Best Low Impact Exercises

Updated June 21, 2019

Low Impact vs. Low Intensity

Low impact exercise helps spare your joints from the jolt of higher impact activities. Though it's gentler, it's not necessarily easier - low impact exercise can be quite challenging and can provide a great workout for those who need to protect their joints, such as older exercisers and those with injuries or medical conditions.


Though bike riding can be strenuous and provide a great cardiovascular workout, it's easy on your joints. It's partiularly beneficial to those who need a tough workout but have to take care with their knees.

Whether you ride outdoors or attend a group fitness indoor cycling class, this is a good option for someone who wants to get their heart pumping while avoiding impact on their joints.

The Elliptical

Elliptical trainers provide the benefits of a leg-bearing exercise without stressing your lower body. It's an excellent alternative to running or jogging for exercisers who can't tolerate high impact to their knees and hips.

For best results, push through your heels when pedaling. Select an elliptical featuring moving handles to recruit your upper body into the workout.

Rowing to Fitness

Rowing is a low impact, cardiovascular workout that utilizes muscles in both your upper body and lower body. While rowing across a lake may be a peaceful workout, there are other options for when the weather is prohibitive. Most fitness facilities feature rowing machines - and if you prefer to exercise at home, rowing units are available for purchase.

Pilates for Strength

Pilates is a gentle, yet challenging, resistance workout that builds core strength while increasing stability and balance throughout your body.

Some exercisers find that Pilates helps relieve joint pain while also increasing their endurance. So while it may not be a calorie scorcher like some other options, it positively impacts your overall fitness.

Fitness Walking

Don't discount the many benefits of walking just because it's "easy." In fact, walking is one of the best low-impact exercises you can do. It gets your body moving while helping you reach your recommended 30 minutes of activity a day.

To further protect your joints, make sure you have supportive shoes and hold your core steadily and tight as you walk.

Water Aerobics

Doing aerobics in the water helps alleviate a great deal of the impact on your joints, making it an ideal group fitness class for those with joint problems or people who are obese.

Look for a class that combines aerobic movements with strength exercises utilizing equipment specific to aqua exercise as this can provide a great circuit training workout that will help increase your fitness level.

Solo Swimming

Though aqua aerobics and other exercises in the pool are a great option for low impact exercise, simply swimming is an excellent option as well.

Swimming is an aerobic activity that burns ample calories and challenges the entire body. Try some intervals where you alternate easy swimming with a faster, more aggressive pace.

Low Impact Aerobics

Most gyms offering group fitness classes offer low-impact aerobic options. These classes are taught by instructors who know how to create a challenging workout without jumps, leaps, and other high-impact moves. The group fitness format might motivate you to work harder (and keep returning).

Look for classes with "low impact" in the title, or check out classes like Silver Sneakers, which are designed specifically for an older population yet welcome participants of all ages.

Strength Training

Though strength training may be hard, it doesn't make it high impact. Lifting weights or doing other forms of strength training correctly is a low impact form of exercise.

In fact, strength training - when done correctly - can help strengthen your joints and lead you into your later years more fit for the rigors of life.

Yoga for Joints

Yoga is a low impact exercise that helps build balance and strength throughout the body. Not only does it lower stress, but it can also help relieve joint pain when done regularly.

The mind-body benefit of yoga cannot be overstated. For people limited to low impact exercise, yoga can be an excellent option for feeling empowered in movement.

Belly Dancing

If you need a workout that is going to keep you entertained, consider something like belly dancing or low-impact dance.

Workouts like these help strengthen the core while also burning calories - a great combination. As with any other exercise, if a move makes you feel discomfort (or pain) or aggravates your joint, stop immediately. You may need to modify some moves, depending on your specific situation.

Tai Chi

A great way to keep moving despite joint issues, Tai Chi is an ancient form of exercise that takes participants through fluid, gradual movements.

Tai Chi is actually a form of martial arts, but does not involve high impact movements like jumps, leaps, and kicks. It can be considered a moving form of meditation and consequently provides mind-body benefits like stress relief.

Keep Moving

Regardless of your reasoning for pursuing low-impact exercise - whether it's a result of an injury, medical condition, aging, or you simply want to spare your body the stress of high-impact exercise - you have ample options.

Just because a workout doesn't include jumping, running, and slamming things around it doesn't mean you aren't deriving great benefits from it. Find a form of low impact exercise you enjoy and try partnering with a workout buddy to keep you motivated. Your body will thank you.

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Best Low Impact Exercises