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The best low-impact workouts

If you are unable to do high-impact activities — such as running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or tennis because of an injury, arthritis or other health condition — you can still get a fantastic workout with low-impact exercises.

“Though the amount of stress placed on the joints is significantly reduced with low-impact workouts, the health benefits are extremely similar to those of high-impact workouts,” says Lauren Jeffrey, ACSM EP-C, EIM2, NASM PT, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. “When performed properly, they strengthen the heart, the muscles and the bones, and help you to maintain flexibility and mobility.”

What is low-impact exercise?

“Activities are considered low-impact when one or both feet are on the ground at all times,” explains Jeffrey. “Exceptions to this rule include anything in the water and Kangoo Jump classes. The water or the boots used in the Kangoo classes absorb the majority of the impact to the joints when running and jumping.”

Low-impact forms of cardio

“Low-impact workouts can be just as effective at keeping you fit as long as you make sure you are reaching your target heart rate and challenging your muscles and bones,” she says. “This is often more difficult with low-impact activities, but it is far from impossible. When performing activities such as walking, try increasing the incline to elevate the heart rate appropriately.”

Jeffrey recommends low-impact cardiovascular workouts, like:

Low-impact forms of strength training

Many forms of strength training are also considered low-impact and should be done in addition to cardio exercises to keep your muscles and bones strong. These include:

Mixing high- and low-impact workouts

Even if you don’t have an injury or health condition that prohibits high-impact training, it is a good idea to cross-train with lower-impact exercises.

“It is very common for people to develop overuse injuries from these types of activities, especially when done in high quantities over long periods of time,” says Jeffrey. “Acute injuries can also be aggravated by high-impact activities.”

Remember: Variety is the spice of life — and the key to injury prevention.

“Variety in a workout regimen plays a major role in reducing the impact on joints,” she says. “The more types of movement that you incorporate into your routine, the less likely that injury will result.”

Check out more fitness tips from Living Better experts.