Health & Wellness

Low-impact Exercises That Yield High-impact Results

Many of my private training clients desire to lose weight and improve their cardiovascular health, yet struggle with joint conditions or injuries that prevent them from doing high-impact exercises, such as running and jumping. “Low-impact” exercises are often confused with “low-intensity,” and that’s definitely not the case. Walking and swimming are excellent daily low-impact activities for people living in agreeable climates, but if you’re looking to change up your routine or are just starting an exercise program, these are my top five favorite low-impact exercises that pack a high-impact result for a number of calories burned, cardiovascular endurance, and muscular strength.

1. The Rower Using an indoor rowing machine is a full-body workout that can burn a lot of calories and increase muscular tone. Rowing is a non-weight bearing activity, which makes it fairly easy on the joints. The muscles of the legs, back, and core are the primary movers during a rowing workout, as well as the heart (it’s a muscle too!). The intensity of rowing workouts may vary depending on how much resistance you set it at and the speed and force in which you move your upper and lower body. Most fitness centers have either wind-resistance or water-resistance rowing machines.

2. Battle Ropes Battle Ropes have made their way into most mainstream fitness facilities in which a long thick synthetic rope is looped around an anchor point, allowing an individual (or partners) to wave, slam, circle, etc. the rope by holding onto the ends. This low-impact, high-intensity movement drives the heart rate up quickly, which is great for people who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to physical fitness. Many beginners think it is mostly an upper-body workout, however, when done correctly, your power is really coming from your hip hinge – contracting the muscles of the legs and core as well.

3. Vinyasa Yoga Any type of yoga is beneficial for health and wellness, but if you’re looking for a higher calorie burn with little impact, a Vinyasa style class will get the job done. Vinyasa (also known as “flow”) classes tend to keep you moving in and out of yoga postures at a more rapid pace than other traditional yoga practices, which keeps the heart rate elevated. Many yoga postures also require you to hold your own body weight in various positions, building muscular strength and endurance throughout the body without significant impact on the joints.

4. Cycling With the rise of SoulCycle, CycleBar, Peloton, and more, not all indoor cycling classes are created equal. While cycling overall is a low-impact activity, you need to do your homework when it comes to choosing the right indoor cycling brand for you. I suggest taking it a step further to then find the best instructor that fits with your persona. This includes finding someone focused on preventing injury while motivating you to work at the correct intensity level for what you’re trying to achieve.

5. Pilates Reformer Pilates works a lot of the smaller and less commonly used muscles of the body. The Pilates Reformer is an apparatus that also works these muscles, as well as the entire body, providing additional resistance to your muscles from the various springs located underneath the carriage. Although this workout lacks the heart-pumping intensity of rowing or cycling, this strength driven workout will enhance muscle tone without placing impact on the joints.

Stephanie Bogdan is an American College of Sports Medicine certified Exercise Physiologist and 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher. She is the author of Beyond the Pose: How to Awaken Your Creativity and Design Your Own, Unique Yoga Sequences, which peppers her personal stories with yoga instruction. Stephanie’s easy to use formula guides you on how to create your own authentic yoga sequences and can be purchased at

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