The “no pain no gain” mantra is quite self-explanatory when it comes to the exponential rise in exercise injuries (1), (2). Sharp and dull pain and swelling indicate that you are exercising the wrong way or need to change your exercise program (3). So, if you have been doing vigorous strength training and HIIT, take some time off and do low impact exercises (4).
These will help you burn the calories without making your joints cry, be easy on the heart and lungs, and suit women and men of all ages. Read on to know the best low-impact exercises that you may include in your fitness routine for as many health benefits as any other high-impact exercise. Swipe up!
15 Best Low-Impact Workouts
Walking is one of the most popular low-impact exercises. In 1990, walking started gaining popularity, and by 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine started recommending walking at 3-4 mph (5). Walking regularly can protect you from cardiovascular diseases, improve your posture and musculoskeletal strength, and speed up your recovery from an injury. You can either walk outside or on the treadmill at your own convenience (6). Click here to know about the benefits of walking in detail.
If you enjoyed biking or riding on a cycle as a kid, it’s time you take up the activity again. Cycling is a low-impact exercise that works on your hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes without knocking off your knees as sprinting would do. Also, cycling regularly can protect your heart, help you lose and manage weight, and may reduce the risk of cancer (7).
3. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese exercise that uses controlled breathing technique and slow sets of motions. Practicing Tai Chi is a great way to improve balance and flexibility, increase strength, de-stress, and reduce the fear of falling (8). Join a Tai Chi class and practice it regularly to see a huge improvement in your mind and body balance.
Swimming is a low-impact whole body exercise. But you must be careful and be monitored by an instructor and take the help of floaters if you are recovering from an injury. Over a period, your strength and flexibility will return, and the strength of the upper body and arms will increase. You will sleep better, lose weight, and be more proactive (9).
5. Elliptical Training
An elliptical machine can help you burn calories while working on your arms, shoulders, traps, chest, thighs, and calves. Ditch the treadmill or running and use this machine to tone your body – minus the sharp bone, joint, or muscle pain. Do a slow 20-minute workout on the elliptical machine under the supervision of an exercise therapist if you are recovering from an injury.
6. Power Yoga
Yoga is an ancient breathing and movement technique developed in India. There are various asanas that you can do to help build strength, stamina, flexibility, and balance and fight various fatal diseases without vigorous cardio or strength training (10). Practicing yoga will also help you de-stress and enhance mental peace.
TRX training is a body-weight strength training exercise that you do with the help of a resistance band. You can buy the TRX band from the official website and start training your core, glutes, upper body, and lower body. The TRX exercises will improve your body composition by helping you build lean muscle mass and improve bone strength and posture without injuring you or aggravating the existing injury (11). Click here to know more about TRX exercises.
Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates to help injured soldiers recover quickly. It is done on a Pilates machine that helps you do a full body exercise either standing up, sitting, or in the lying position. These exercises bring the best of Eastern and Western exercises and help build stamina, strength, endurance, and flexibility (12). Join a Pilates studio and do a 30-45-minute session every alternate day to see results in two weeks’ time.
9. Green Gym
Green gym is the age-old gardening therapy that will help you sweat and burn calories. You get to you spend a considerable amount of time in Nature and de-stress. You can either have a garden at your home or be a conservation volunteer at a nearby park.
Dance forms like foxtrot, salsa, and waltz are good calorie burners. They will improve your posture, help you learn a new skill, and build your social skills as well. Join a beginners dance class, where you can explore more about a dance form rather than concentrating on perfecting the moves. Learn and build on it as you progress.
11. Nordic Walking
Nordic walking is a type of slow walking with the help of poles (like walking on snow). It works on the abs, lats, thighs, calves, spine, and the shoulders. Nordic walking helps in improving lung and heart function, puts less stress on the joints, and speeds up recovery.
12. Cardio Circuit
If you want to burn maximum calories in a short period without harming your bones and joints, do cardio circuit training. With the help of your trainer, design a circuit routine of 1 minute of exercise and 1 minute of rest. Do this for 6-7 minutes, and you may burn up to 100 calories. If you are recovering from an injury, do not put stress on your joints and bones. Do exercises that will help you regain strength, range of motion, and flexibility instead of focussing on burning calories and aggravating the injury further.
Rowing is emulating the “rowing” action on a rowing machine at the gym or your home. It works on the biceps, triceps, shoulders, lats, and pectoral muscles. Here’s how to do it.
How To Do
- Sit on the bench and strap your feet on the footrest.
- Grab the handlebar. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart, relax your shoulders, keep your back straight, and look ahead. This is the starting position.
- Push back and straighten your legs.
- Lean back slightly and engage your core.
- Flex your elbows and pull your arms back, bringing the handlebar close to your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades.
- Release your arms, lean forward, flex your knees, and push yourself back to the starting position.
Sets and Reps
3 sets of 12 reps
14. Bridge With Chest Press
Bridge with chest press is a low-intensity strength training and body balance building exercise. It works on the glutes, lower back, biceps, triceps, and chest. Here’s how to do it.
How To Do
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie down on a mat.
- Straighten your hands up right above your chest. Keep your palms facing forward, knees flexed, feet flat on the mat, shoulders relaxed, and abs engaged.
- Lift your hips and squeeze your glutes.
- Hold this pose and bring the weights down to the side.
- Exhale and press the weight back up to the initial position.
Sets and Reps
3 sets of 12 reps
Note: Do not do this exercise if you have a low back injury.
15. Dumbbell Thruster
Dumbbell thruster is a low-impact weighted squat. It works on the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, shoulders, and lats. You will build rounder buttocks without having to sweat at the gym or do vigorous strength training. You can also take care of your posture, which you may ignore while doing quick reps. Here’s how to do it.
How To Do
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them up to your shoulders.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out slightly.
- Push your back and lower your body and squat. Make sure your knees are not overshooting your toes.
- Stand back up and press the dumbbells up.
- Bring the dumbbells down to your shoulders and squat.
Sets and Reps
3 sets of 12 reps
These are the 15 amazing low-impact, calorie-burning exercises that you can do every alternate day or as per your trainer’s instructions. Make sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist before you do any of these exercises in general and especially if you have an injury. Doing these exercises regularly will make you physically fit and mentally strong. So, go ahead and burn some calories without the risk of injuring yourself. Cheers!
- “Exercise and soft tissue injury.” Baillière’s clinical rheumatology, US National Library of Medicine
- “The causes of injuries sustained at fitness facilities presenting to Victorian emergency departments – identifying the main culprits” Injury epidemiology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Is Your Exercise Causing Good or Bad Pain? How to Tell” Cleveland Clinic.
- “’Good Pain’ Versus ‘Bad Pain’ for Athletes” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- “The importance of walking to public health.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Walking to health.” Sports medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports.US National Library of Medicine.
- “Tai Chi” PubMed Health, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Swimming – health benefits” Better Health Channel.
- “Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review” International journal of preventive medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “TRX Suspension Training: A New Functional Training Approach for Older Adults – Development, Training Control and Feasibility” International journal of exercise science, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Pilates: how does it work and who needs it?” Muscles, ligaments and tendons journal, US National Library of Medicine.
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