Low impact exercises: Definition, benefits, examples, nutrition

Low impact exercises are popular for their gentle approach on the joints while still offering a potent avenue to achieve fitness goals. 

Amidst the hustle of modern life, these exercises stand as a beacon of accessibility and effectiveness for individuals across the fitness spectrum. 

Whether you are recovering from an injury, just starting out, or looking to add variety to your workout regimen, low impact exercises could be a great fit. 

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of low impact exercises, their benefits, and how to seamlessly integrate them into your lifestyle for enhanced health and wellness.

What are low impact exercises?

Low impact exercises are workouts that minimize the stress and strain on your joints. They’re an ideal choice for anyone seeking a gentler form of exercise. 

Unlike the jarring impact often associated with high-intensity workouts, these exercises are characterized by keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times, which results in less impact force being transferred to your joints during movement. Examples include walking, cycling, and swimming among others [1]. 

What’s the difference between low and high impact exercises?

Low impact exercises cause less stress on your joints, while high impact exercises, where both feet or hands leave the ground simultaneously, cause more stress [2].

High impact exercises can help in building bone and muscle strength more quickly than low impact exercises. These exercises carry a higher risk of injury and joint pain, especially for individuals with pre-existing conditions like arthritis​​.

Ideal candidates for low impact exercises

  • Individuals with joint issues: Those with chronic pain, arthritis, or other joint-related issues can benefit from the gentler nature of low impact exercises.
  • Beginners: Low impact exercises provide a friendly entry point for those new to working out.
  • Older adults: Seniors may find low impact exercises to be the safest form of exercise, as they are easier on the joints like knees, hips, and ankles.
  • Those seeking a gentler form of exercise: Individuals looking for a less intense or gentler form of exercise, perhaps for rehabilitation or recovery days between higher impact workouts, will find low impact exercises to be a suitable option​.
Benefits of low impact exercises

Benefits of low impact exercises

Engaging in low impact exercises offers a multitude of benefits that cater to both physical and mental wellness. Here are some of the notable advantages:

1. Versatility

Low impact exercises encompass a variety of categories including aerobic, strength training, mobility, and flexibility exercises. This versatility allows for the creation of a well-rounded workout routine that caters to different fitness goals​​.

2. Reduced risk of injury

By their nature, low impact exercises minimize the risk of mobility-related injuries, making them a safer choice for people recovering from injuries or with joint issues​ [3]​.

3. Muscle strengthening and improved posture

These exercises help in strengthening the muscles around your joints and building core strength, which in turn, improves posture. They are particularly beneficial for individuals recovering from certain types of injuries​​.

4. Weight control

Contrary to some beliefs, low impact exercises can also aid in weight control. For instance, a 155-pound individual can burn substantial calories through activities like leisurely swimming or doing the breaststroke for an hour [​4]​.

5. Gradual strength and endurance building

Low impact exercises are excellent for gradually building up strength and muscular endurance over time without putting undue stress on the joints. This slow build-up is beneficial for long-term fitness sustainability​​.

6. Enhanced cardiovascular health

Engaging in aerobic low impact exercises like cycling, swimming, or brisk walking can help improve cardiovascular health by enhancing heart and lung function [5].

7. Improved mental wellbeing

The rhythmic and less strenuous nature of low impact exercises can also promote mental wellness by reducing stress and anxiety levels.

8. Accessibility

Low impact exercises are accessible to individuals across different fitness levels and ages, making them a go-to choice for those looking to maintain an active lifestyle without the harsh impacts associated with high-intensity workouts.

Examples of low impact exercises

Exploring low impact exercises can open up a world of possibilities for maintaining fitness while being gentle on the joints. Below are some common low impact exercises that are both effective and enjoyable:

Walking

A simple yet effective exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. It’s excellent for cardiovascular health, muscle endurance, and mental wellness.

Swimming

With the buoyancy of water reducing the impact on joints, swimming is a fantastic low impact exercise that also provides a full-body workout.

Cycling

Be it stationary or outdoor cycling, this exercise is great for cardiovascular health, lower body strength, and endurance.

Pilates

Pilates focuses on core strength, flexibility, and overall body balance without putting much stress on the joints.

Yoga

Through various poses and breathing techniques, yoga enhances flexibility, strength, and mental relaxation.

Rowing

Rowing, whether on a machine or in water, offers a full-body workout that improves cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese practice involves slow movements promoting balance, flexibility, and stress reduction.

Elliptical trainer

The elliptical trainer provides an excellent cardiovascular workout with less impact on the knees and hips than running.

Water aerobics

Performing aerobic exercises in water reduces joint stress, making it an excellent choice for a low impact workout.

Resistance band exercises

Using resistance bands for exercises can help in muscle toning and strength building without high impact movements.

Each of these exercises offers a unique set of benefits, catering to different preferences and fitness goals. 

Combining several low impact exercises can make your workout routine more engaging and well-rounded, promoting a holistic approach to fitness and wellness.

Incorporating a mix of these low impact exercises in your routine can lead to improved fitness, better joint health, and an enhanced quality of life.

Nutrition for low impact exercises

Proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in maximizing the benefits derived from low impact exercises. It fuels your body, aids in recovery, and supports overall wellness. Here’s a breakdown of nutritional considerations for engaging in low impact exercises:

1. Balanced diet

A balanced diet that includes various nutrients is crucial. Incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to ensure your body receives the nutrition for energy, recovery, and muscle maintenance.

2. Carbohydrate intake

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for your body. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to provide sustained energy during your low impact workouts.

3. Protein

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Include lean meats, dairy, legumes, and plant-based proteins to support your muscle health.

4. Healthy fats

Healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil are essential for hormone production and overall cellular function.

5. Hydration

Staying hydrated before, during, and after your workouts is vital. Water helps in temperature regulation, joint lubrication, and nutrient transportation.

6. Micronutrients

Vitamins and minerals play a key role in various bodily functions including energy production and muscle contraction. Ensure your diet is rich in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to meet your micronutrient needs.

7. Pre- and post-exercise nutrition

Having a carbohydrate-rich snack before your workout can provide the energy needed, while a balanced meal with proteins and carbs post-workout aids in recovery.

8. Supplementation

If you have specific dietary restrictions or deficiencies, consider consulting a healthcare professional to discuss supplementation that could support your fitness goals.

Tailoring your nutrition to meet the demands of your low impact exercise routine can significantly enhance your performance, recovery, and the benefits you reap from your workouts. 

This alignment of nutrition and exercise paves the way for a holistic approach to your health and wellness journey.

Tips for engaging in low impact exercises

Embarking on a fitness routine with low impact exercises can be a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to make the most out of your low impact workout routine:

1. Start slow

Especially if you’re new to exercising or returning after a hiatus, it’s wise to start slow. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts as your fitness level improves.

2. Variety is key

Mix different types of low impact exercises to keep your routine engaging and to work various muscle groups. This also helps to prevent workout monotony and promotes a well-rounded fitness regimen.

3. Listen to your body

Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts. If you experience discomfort or pain, consider modifying the exercises or consulting a healthcare professional.

4. Set realistic goals

Setting achievable goals can keep you motivated and provide a sense of accomplishment as you progress.

5. Consistency over intensity

Being consistent with your workout routine is more important than the intensity of individual sessions. Consistency promotes sustainable progress over time.

6. Use proper form

Ensuring correct form while performing exercises can help prevent injury and ensure you are getting the most benefit from each movement.

7. Warm-up and cool down

Incorporate a warm-up to prepare your body for exercise and a cool-down to aid in recovery and flexibility.

warm up and cool down

8. Stay hydrated and well-nourished

Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for performance and recovery. Adhere to the nutritional tips provided in the previous section to support your low impact exercise routine.

9. Seek professional guidance if needed

If you are unsure about the exercises or have specific health concerns, consider consulting a fitness professional for personalized advice.

10. Enjoy the process

Enjoying your workouts and your progress is crucial for long-term adherence and success. Find activities that you enjoy and look forward to.

Equipment for low impact exercises

Investing in some basic equipment can enhance your low impact exercise routine, providing more variety and challenge to your workouts. Here are some equipment options and recommendations for low impact exercises:

1. Resistance bands

These versatile bands come in various resistance levels, allowing you to add a challenge to your exercises without adding impact.

2. Stability ball

Great for core workouts, a stability ball can also be used for various strength training exercises with low impact.

3. Dumbbells and kettlebells

Adding some weight to your routine can help in muscle toning and strength building. Opt for lighter weights if you’re a beginner.

4. Elliptical trainer

An elliptical trainer provides a good cardiovascular workout while being gentle on your joints.

5. Exercise mat

A good quality mat provides cushioning and support for floor exercises like yoga and Pilates.

6. Stationary bike

A stationary bike is an excellent option for low impact cardiovascular exercise and can be used indoors regardless of the weather.

7. Foam roller

For muscle recovery and flexibility, a foam roller is a handy tool to have.

8. Swimming gear

If you enjoy swimming, investing in a good swimsuit, goggles, and swim cap can enhance your experience.

9. Proper footwear

While not a piece of equipment per se, wearing supportive and comfortable footwear is crucial to prevent injuries and promote proper alignment.

10. Pilates or yoga props

Items like yoga blocks, straps, and Pilates rings can be beneficial for enhancing your practice and ensuring proper form.

Budget-friendly options

Many of the above-mentioned items are budget-friendly and widely available. Alternatively, household items can sometimes be repurposed for exercise use. 

For example, a sturdy chair can be used for seated exercises or as a support for balance exercises.

Equipment can significantly enhance your low impact exercise experience by adding variety, challenge, and support to your routine. 

Before purchasing, consider your fitness goals, available space, and budget to make informed choices.

How can low impact exercises be adapted for diverse fitness levels and health conditions?

Low impact exercises are inherently adaptable, catering to a wide spectrum of individuals with varied fitness levels and health considerations. Here’s how they can be tailored to meet the needs of specific populations:

Seniors

Low impact exercises like walking, swimming, or tai chi [6] can be excellent options for seniors looking to maintain mobility, balance, and muscle strength without overtaxing the joints.

Pregnant women

Pregnancy necessitates a gentle approach to exercise. Activities like prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking can provide safe ways for expectant mothers to stay active and healthy.

Individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities

For those managing chronic conditions or physical disabilities, low impact exercises can be modified to accommodate their abilities and comfort levels. Consulting with healthcare professionals to design a safe and effective routine is advisable.

Rehabilitation

Individuals recovering from injuries or surgeries can benefit from low impact exercises tailored to their rehabilitation needs. Exercises can be progressively adjusted as recovery advances.

Beginners

Those new to exercising can start with low impact activities as they build endurance, strength, and confidence in their fitness journey.

Individuals with joint pain or arthritis

The gentle nature of low impact exercises makes them suitable for individuals experiencing joint pain or living with arthritis, providing a means to stay active without exacerbating pain.

Overweight or obese individuals

The reduced joint stress associated with low impact exercises provides a safer exercise option for overweight or obese individuals, promoting a gradual progression towards better fitness and health.

Each population may have unique needs, and the adaptability of low impact exercises allows for modifications to meet these needs. 

By working with fitness professionals and healthcare providers, individuals can create personalized low impact exercise routines that support their health goals while respecting their limitations.

How to overcome common challenges when doing low impact exercises?

Engaging in low impact exercises can come with its set of challenges. Here are common hurdles and how to overcome them:

1. Lack of motivation

Finding a workout buddy or joining a community can foster motivation. Setting clear, achievable goals can also keep you driven.

2. Perceived lack of intensity

Low impact doesn’t mean low intensity. Amp up the challenge by increasing the duration, resistance, or speed of your exercises.

3. Time constraints

Scheduling your workouts, just like any other important activity, can ensure you make time for them. Opt for shorter, more frequent sessions if time is scarce.

4. Plateaus

If progress stalls, it might be time to mix things up. Try new exercises, adjust the intensity, or consult a fitness professional for guidance.

5. Boredom

Variety is the spice of life. Mix different low impact exercises, try new classes, or change your workout environment to keep things exciting.

6. Lack of equipment

While some equipment can enhance your workouts, many low impact exercises require no equipment. Be creative and use household items, or opt for exercises that use body weight for resistance.

Overcoming these challenges can reinvigorate your workout routine, making your low impact exercise journey enjoyable and beneficial in the long term.

Closing thoughts

Embracing low impact exercises can be a game changer in promoting physical health, mental wellness, and overall quality of life. 

This guide provides a thorough look into what low impact exercises entail, their benefits, examples, nutritional considerations, engaging tips, equipment recommendations, and adaptations for diverse populations. 

Overcoming the common challenges associated with low impact exercises is part of the process, and with the right approach, these exercises can become an enjoyable and sustainable part of your lifestyle. Your path towards better health could be just a step away with low impact exercises.

FAQS

Can you lose weight with low impact workouts?

Yes, you can lose weight with low impact workouts as they can help burn calories and build muscle, which in turn boosts your metabolism. Integrating these workouts with a balanced, calorie-controlled diet can further support your weight loss goals.

What is best low impact exercise?

The “best” low impact exercise can vary based on individual preferences and fitness goals, but swimming is often cited as a highly effective option due to its full-body engagement and low joint stress. Other notable low impact exercises include walking, cycling, and Pilates.

Can you get toned with low impact?

Low-impact exercises can tone your muscles without stressing your joints. Adding resistance training can further enhance muscle toning and strength.

Is it okay to do low impact exercise everyday?

Yes, it’s generally okay to do low impact exercises daily as they are less taxing on the joints and body. However, it’s essential to listen to your body and allow for adequate recovery, especially if you are incorporating more intense or resistance-based low impact exercises in your routine.

[1] https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/low-impact-workouts/guide 
[2] https://www.anytimefitness.com/ccc/high-impact-exercise-vs-low-impact/ 
[3] https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/unexpected-benefits-of-low-impact-workouts/ 
[4] https://www.gradyhealth.org/blog/5-benefits-of-low-impact-exercise/ 
[5] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/aerobic-exercise/art-20045541 
[6] https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/senior-health-lifestyle/10-low-impact-exercises-for-seniors.htm

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