6 Low-Impact Workouts That Are Gentle on Your Body But Still Super Effective
The wonderful part about exercise is that there are workouts for everyone—even those who aren't looking for anything too intense. Low-impact workouts are not only gentle on the joints, but they can also typically be performed in a single fluid motion. You might be familiar with the elliptical as a low-impact workout, but there are also other moves you can do from anywhere with just your body. To get the best low-impact workouts, I tapped four personal trainers who shared some of their favorite moves—from squats to knee repeaters—that will get your heart pumping while giving your joints a break.
1. Squat + Front Kick
Michele Levy, CEO and founder of Zing! and certified fitness instructor, suggests trying a squat and front kick combination. "It not only works some of the biggest muscles in your body, but it is also a heart-pumping exercise (with no jumping!) that's fun and empowering. You can do it anywhere," she says.
1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart. Make fists in each hand and hold them up in front of your face as if you were trying to guard it.
2. Lower down into a squat. As you return to stand, chamber your right knee in towards your body, flex your foot, extend your leg at the knee, and kick forward with all of your might.
3. Inhale as you lower down and exhale as you stand and exert your power.
Continue this motion by alternating legs or doing a timed segment on each leg. To up the intensity, Levy suggests picking up the pace or raising your arms overhead during the squat to increase your heart rate.
2. Cross-Body Knee Repeaters
Levy is also a fan of cross-body knee repeaters as a low-impact exercise. "I love that it requires minimal space and doesn't involve jumping, so it's modifiable for so many levels and needs," she says.
1. Step into a wide stance. Reach your arms up and across to the right as you step your left leg out to the leg and point the left foot towards the ground.
2. Bring your arms down and across towards your left knee and pull your left knee in towards your arms. Your knee and arms should meet in the middle. Your right leg is stabilizing you during this motion.
3. Inhale as you reach up, and exhale as you pull down. You can make this exercise easier by bringing your arms closer to your midsection and keeping a slow pace.
To make this a bit more challenging, Levy recommends reaching your arms high and picking up the pace.
3. Push-Up With Rotation
Susane Pata, a certified personal trainer and content strategist for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), loves the following two moves. "They are also multiplanar, meaning they train the different directions in which the body naturally moves throughout the day, making them very functional and reducing chances for injury," she says. To learn more about push-ups and their variations, check out the NASM Guide to Push-ups.
1. Begin with a strong, straight-arm plank position, keeping the shoulders, hips, and ankles aligned, and with a strong brace in the core (engaging all four sides of the torso).
2. Lower the body down toward the ground by bending at the elbows and shoulders.
3. Return back to the plank by extending the arms and pressing the body away from the ground.
1. Pressing the right hand onto the ground, rotate away from the right arm and simultaneously reach the left arm up until the entire body is facing sideways, in a side plank.
2. Return back to a strong plank position.
3. Continue with another push-up, and then repeat the body rotation on the other side with the other arm.
The following three exercises below are favorites because of the multiple benefits each has to offer while being relatively low impact. The three exercises together are beneficial because they target the entire body. They are also multiplanar, meaning they train the different directions in which the body naturally moves throughout the day, making them very functional and reducing the chances of injury. The three different multiplanar movements are: sagittal (forward and back), frontal (side to side), and transverse (rotation). For the best outcome, it is prudent to balance training with a good mix of the three-movement planes (and not rely so heavily on one over another). In addition, each of these exercises is integrated movements requiring the use of many muscle groups, which can maximize time efficiency.
4. Prone Y-Raise to Downward Dog
"The prone Y-raise targets some significant back muscles—more specifically, scapular muscles—something most of the population needs these days with technology-ridden habits of rounding the shoulders and hunching forward in front of a computer screen or smart device," Pata says.
1. Place a folded towel on the ground, and lie face down, resting the forehead on the folded towel and keeping the neck long.
2. Reach the arms out in front to form the shape of the letter "Y," keeping the palms down.
3. Engage all the muscles by firmly pressing the body to the ground.
4. Once fully engaged, keep the shoulders low and only raise the "Y-extended arms" with thumbs up, reaching them a few inches above the ground.
5. Keep the feet, legs, hips, core, chest, and head pinned to the ground.
6. Slowly lower the extended arms down to the ground.
1. Slide the hands back to shoulder level and tuck the toes under the feet.
2. Engage the core, press the body away from the ground, and lift the tailbone up to form an inverted letter "V" with your body.
3. Press the hands firmly into the ground, draw the chest toward the legs and try to place the heels on the ground, if possible.
4. Straighten the body into a plank position.
5. Slowly lower down to the ground and return the arms to the "Y" position.
5. Superman With Hold
Photo:Robert Niedring/Getty Images
Nikki Gnozzio, personal trainer and founder of Junction Bodyworks, shares one of the best low-impact exercises that can be done anywhere.
1. Lie on the floor face down with your legs straight and arms extended in front of you.
2. Keep your head neutral (avoid looking up and straining your neck) and slowly lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor.
3. You should feel your back muscles contract as you engage your glutes, core, and back. Hold this lifted for three seconds and lower.
6. Low Impact Circuit
If you're looking for a combination of the best low-impact exercises to do that will get your heart rate up for a solid 20 to 30 minutes? Gina Newton, NASM certified personal trainer, offers this low-impact circuit you can do.
1. Floor Bridge: Lay on your back with bent knees, feet on the floor, tuck your pelvis, lift your hips, and hold for three seconds, release for one. Do 2 x 10 reps.
2. Superman: Lay on your stomach, on an inhale lift your chest/legs gently off the ground and hold for three seconds. Do 2 x 10 reps.
3. Ball Crunch: You'll need an exercise ball, but it works your core. Do 2 x 10 reps.
4. Chest Press: Do this on the ball. Do 2 x 10 reps.
5. Rows: Do 2 x 10 reps.
6. Tricep dips: Sit on the edge of a chair, gently drop your bottom off the chair, bending your triceps, and then extending lifting your body weight. Do 2 x 10 reps.
Products to Shop
Add some resistance to your low-impact workout with a resistance band that simply buckles into place. Available in four resistance and tension levels.
Even with low-impact exercises, you'll want a sports bra to keep your chest in place. Opt for this bra that features removable cups and built-in storage space for small valuables.
Get the most out of your workouts by adding some dumbbells. These three-pound weights are available in vibrant colors designed to make exercise more fun.
Whether you decide to sit and bounce or do some chest presses, this exercise ball provides a space to move and improve core strength.
Since many low-impact exercises can be done on the floor, opt for a yoga mat like this bright pink one from Alo. Its cushioned design will keep your joints comfortable during exercises from squats to pushups.
Give your feet the support they deserve with a pair of supportive sneakers from Vionic. Simply slip your foot into these sneakers and you're all set whether for the elliptical or treadmill.
Activewear is crucial for any exercise and these from Terez are made from polyester and spandex so they'll move with you during exercises of all sorts. Available in sizes XXS to 3X.
With a built-in bra, this tank offers sufficient support for low-impact exercises while also providing protection from the sun with UPF 50+.
Want to build your booty? The DB Method ensures you're doing squats with the proper form from the comfort of your own home. Oh, and it folds up, making it great for small spaces.
Break a little extra sweat with these sliders designed to brace your core and strengthen those abdominal muscles all while remaining low impact.
Next, I Walked 12,000 Steps Every Day This Month—Here's What Happened