What Is Low Impact Exercise?

Knowing what low impact exercise is can help save your joints, and keep you mobile to stay fit.

In a nutshell, exercise can be divided into two groups: high and low impact. Both are great for getting fit, getting in shape, and losing weight-if that’s your goal.

Low impact just means how hard your body is contacting another surface.

Even though it can mean coming into contact with anything, including equipment, the term is usually used when talking about your feet striking the ground.

Although there are no-impact exercises like swimming, in general all exercise can be divided into two categories: low and high impact.

Most anyone involved with a regular workout routine uses both categories, and neither one is particularly better than the other in general.

However, personal goals and limitations might have you concentrating primarily or entirely on low-impact exercises.

What Is Low Impact Exercise?

Low impact exercise is any workout that causes minimal stress to the body and joints.

According to definition, low impact workouts will always have one foot off the ground and one foot on the ground. There are exceptions such as cycling, exercise bikes, elliptical machines, and most home cardio machines.

A better definition might be more like only having your body weight on one foot at the time or not at all.

Read more in this post The Best Low Impact Exercise Fitness Guide You’ve Ever Heard Of.

What Is High Impact?

Usually the definition of high impact exercises include having both of your feet off the ground together, at the same time.

That means a lot of impact on feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine when your bodyweight suddenly bears down on them upon striking the ground or other hard surface.

Think jumping rope, jumping jacks, or jumping off things. CrossFit and Insanity exercises involve many high impact and high intensity routines.

However, running and jogging are considered high impact because of the sudden jolts each time one foot strikes the ground?

Why Do Low Impact Workouts?

  • Avoiding Injuries. It only makes sense that if you’ve injured something like an ankle, knee, hip, or strained muscles in your lower body, that you wouldn’t engage in high impact activities. People suffering with osteoarthritis are advised to keep moving and using their joints to stay mobile with low impact workouts such as walking.
  • Exercise is straining joints and muscles. You may be finishing a run or getting off a treadmill and suffering with sore joints and muscles. That could be a sign that you are putting too much stress on something that’s strained or overworked. Taking a break from these workouts and moving away from high impact sessions could give you time to recover.
  • Fine tuning balance. Exercises such as yoga, stretches, and pilates causes little stress on joints and muscles and are focused more on increasing strength and balance. Even thought they may not burn as many calories as running for 45 minutes, they do burn calories, increase metabolism, and greatly improve balance and skeletal alignment.
  • Protection from injury. Not everyone interested in fitness and exercising is interested in high impact workouts that stress joints and muscles. They know that putting less stress on joints and muscles is protecting them from injury and premature wearing of cartilage.
  • Pregnancies. These are the perfect exercises for pregnant women who want to continue on working out and staying in shape.
  • Returning to exercise. What if you were quite athletic in the past, but have taken a long break from any physical activities. Low impact workouts are great for getting back in the groove, getting in better shape, and easing your body into more strenuous workouts.

Are Low Impact Exercises Less Effective?

Because of the words, high and low, it’s natural to wonder if these workouts are somehow not as effective?

The answer is no.

Just because you are not impacting your joints as heavily has no bearing on the effectiveness of your workouts.

  • Take swimming as example. This is usually considered the exercise that burns the most calories and works the most muscles simultaneously.  But then, there’s no risk involved of harming joints from impacting the water as the activity burns more calories than running.
  • Walking. Probably the most popular low-impact activity with all groups of people is walking. Walking is a convenient for most everyone and a cheap way to burn calories, tone muscles, strengthen bones, and lower the risk of many diseases. Of course, a leisurely walk won’t accomplish nearly as much as a brisk walk, which is still easy on your joints and body.
  • Swimming. Another exercise that’s easy on the joints and great for toning your body is stretching. Stretching keeps your muscles and tendons supple and lengthened. If you’re suffering with arthritis or back pains stretching can do wonders. Muscles unused always tend to shorten, and stretching exercises lengthen and strengthen muscles. These workouts keep your body flexible and mobile.

The Low Down On Low Impact

There are many different forms of exercise and workouts available to us. Sometimes they’re divided into different forms depending on what they do to and for your body.

There’s cardio, resistance, flexibility, and balance-and a myriad of variations and types within each category.

The thing about low impact exercise is that it is really not a type of exercise. Low impact fits into almost every group, and is more how you exercise than what you.

Using your joints is almost always advisable, especially with osteoarthritis.

Even though it seems contradictory to use sore joints, using them in low impact exercises keeps them from locking up, muscles from shrinking, and fluids activated to lubricate them.

High impact exercises are hard on your joints, but most workout routines other than running or jogging either are or can be easy on your joints.

The most common reason people are interested in low impact forms of exercise is to protect joints; especially knee, hip, and ankle joints. Sometimes they are needed for people with injuries or medical conditions.

However, these exercises aren’t unusual and are used by most anyone into fitness or burning calories. Just a few examples are Yoga, rowing machines, exercise bikes, Pilates, swimming, weight lifting, and many more.


If you’ve been thinking about exercise, but back aches, aching knees, or the thought of shin splints are holding your back-low impact exercise may be just the thing. If you were an athlete in days gone by, and wondering how to get fit again, this is the way to get started without damaging your body or joints.

Sometimes we get so overweight that our joints can’t handle many exercises and workouts. Don’t let that hold you back from exercise for weight loss. These exercises with much less impact on your joints can get you to burning calories and losing weight fast with less risk of injury.

If you are a senior citizen, dealing with arthritis, recovering from injury or overworked muscles-low impact exercises can keep you fit and healthy.

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