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What Are the Best Low-Impact Exercises?

Many people are often told to take up some low impact exercises in a bid to get fitter and perhaps lose some weight. But what is a low impact exercise and how does it differ from regular exercises? What are the best low impact exercises? This article will help you find out.

What is a Low-Impact Exercise?

There are hundreds of articles on the internet that talk about low impact exercises, many of them have very different definitions of what a low impact exercise is.

A common definition is that low impact exercises are “ones that require you to leave at least one foot off the ground” (source).

But that doesn’t really make sense. Sprinting is hardly a low impact exercise, yet it would fit the definition above. What about a piston squat? One of the most intense exercises you can perform, yet technically one foot is off the ground.

No, that common definition of low impact exercises is all wrong. A much better definition of low impact exercises would be:

Exercises that are low in intensity and do not place much impact on your joints.

This definition gels much better with the exercises that are often described as low impact. It also rules out exercises that could technically qualify as low impact using the first definition but clearly aren’t.

The real point of low impact exercises is to provide a form of exercise that is low risk and can be performed safely by anyone – particularly the infirm or people recovering from injury.

What Are the Best Low Impact Exercises?

The best low impact exercises are the ones that produce good results without being likely to lead to injury. This covers a huge range of different exercises, including resistance exercises, cardio machines, and traditional cardio exercises such as swimming or cycling.

In this article, we will take a look at eight of the best low impact exercises and give a brief description of each.

Eight of the Best Low Impact Exercises

Here is a brief list of eight of the best low impact exercises that you can add into your daily routine. These are perfect if you are looking to build some cardiovascular fitness, some muscle, and lose a bit of body fat, but can’t perform high impact exercises.

Exercise #1 Swimming

Swimming is a fantastic low impact exercise, the fact that you are swimming through water means that there is almost no impact on your joints. Yet there is still enough resistance to work your muscles and improve your fitness. If you have shoulder injuries then you may need to use more conservative swimming techniques, but otherwise it is ideal.

Exercise #2 Box Squats

Box squats are a rare resistance exercise that is low impact. All you need is a box, chair, or bench that is about knee height. Then you place your feet about shoulder width apart, and keeping your heels on the ground, lower yourself down until your glutes touch the box. Pause, and then rise back up. Perfect for teaching good squat technique, and for people with injuries who nevertheless want to strengthen their lower body.

Exercise #3 Pilates

Pilates is a great example of an exercise that is accessible to all fitness levels. Very basic pilates is certainly low impact and is great for improving balance and coordination. While also improving cardio fitness and strength in your muscles. However, as you improve and learn more, it can become a much more challenging workout.

Exercise #4 Walking

Walking is the most commonly cited low impact exercise, and with good cause. It is something that most of us do every day without even thinking about it. Increasing your daily walking distance can help to burn more calories, improve your cardio fitness, and allows you to experience more fresh air and free space than usual. Sure, for some people walking (particularly hiking) can be challenging, but you could say that about any form of exercise.

Exercise #5 X-Trainer

The X-Trainer (or Cross trainer) is arguably the best low impact cardio machines out there, it recreates running without the jarring movement of your feet hitting the ground. Instead you just glide, using your arms to move the upper handles (which takes even more pressure off your legs).

Exercise #6 Exercise Bike

Like the X-Trainer, the exercise bike is definitely low impact, though perhaps not quite to the same degree. Exercise bikes put a little more pressure on the knee than X-Trainers, but they would certainly still be considered low impact. An excellent way to improve your cardio fitness and strengthen your lower body.

Exercise #7 Yoga

Just like pilates, yoga is a form of exercise that can be performed by people of all fitness levels. Also like pilates, the level of impact on your joints can vary depending on what form of yoga you are following. Some forms can be very high impact and are extremely challenging. On the other hand, some forms of yoga are mostly based around breathing technique, meditation, and sitting. With stretches and low impact movements added in as you progress.

Exercise #8 Resistance Machines

Sure, resistance machines are often high impact, with men and women putting a lot of intensity into lifting as much weight as possible for as long as possible. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. Using a low or medium weight, it is possible to perform a chest press, lat pulldown, or seated row carefully and with great control. Making it low impact.

Final Thoughts

As exercise #8 demonstrates, whether an exercise is low impact or not is often down to the intentions and capabilities of the person performing it. A light jog is going to be low impact for an elite athlete but would be considered high impact for a senior citizen fresh from hip surgery!

We’ve talked about eight low impact exercises here, following the definition that low impact exercises are ones that place little strain on the joints and are low risk. Whether this applies to you or not depends on what your current fitness levels are.

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