The Best Low Impact Workouts: A Full Guide

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to strengthen your joints and prevent injury- but it can be risky if you overdo it. If you are new to working out, returning after a long break, or have any injuries or chronic pain, it’s critical to make sure your body isn’t under too much stress with a new routine. Otherwise, you could cause damage that might seriously set you back in the long run.

Low-impact routines are especially important for individuals with conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, repetitive strain injuries, and previous injuries including sprains, breaks, and herniations.  

Low-impact workouts are the perfect way to build your strength and endurance while preventing injury. Designed to be gentle on your joints while increasing your fitness, they incorporate controlled, stable movements and avoid too much jumping, momentum, and force. Minimize your air time- you always want one foot on the ground.

The Best Types of Low-Impact Routines

Low-impact cardio workouts. A low-impact cardio workout protects your joints from too much repetitive impact. Two of the best options are biking and pool workouts such as swimming or water aerobics. Jogging, running, and many sports can create pressure on sensitive joints.

A simple stationary bike workout neutralizes impact and can help strengthen your legs. Amp up the intensity by adding resistance or increasing your speed. You’ll feel the burn without placing too much force on your hips, ankles, and knees.

Water also cushions impact and adds resistance, so try a pool workout! Swimming or water aerobics can provide a great workout with minimal pressure on your joints. 

Low-impact HIIT workouts. Low impact doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice higher-intensity styles such as HIIT! You can still push through interval training- just choose exercises with controlled movements, that don’t involve swinging around heavy weights or jumping. Replace box jumps with squat variations; swap burpees with controlled pushups.

Low-impact resistance training. Low-impact weight training can strengthen your joints and, over time, prepare them for more intense activity. Again, choose stable exercises where you always have one or both feet on the ground.

Isometric exercises such as a plank are a great way to challenge yourself without creating undue pressure. Resistance bands are also an effective tool for adding resistance without loading too much weight on a barbell, which can place pressure on your spine. 

Leg workouts can exert a particularly high impact on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. For a low-impact leg workout, avoid jumping variations of squats or lunges. Start with dumbbell or resistance band movements and work your way up to heavier weights. Prioritize using lighter weights with fuller ranges of movement, focusing on muscle activation.

Mobility workouts. Mobility exercises and gentle bodyweight mat workout routines such as Pilates and Yoga can help strengthen and stretch your joints. Mobility training improves joint function and increases muscle recovery, making it a valuable addition to any routine.

How do I know what type of low-impact workout is right for me?

An ideal exercise program should reflect your unique goals and needs, whether you need to gain muscle, shed fat, increase your endurance, combat chronic pain, or (most likely) a combination of a few different approaches.

At Iron Orr Fitness, our highly experienced San Diego personal trainers can identify the best types of movements for your body, and create a low-impact workout routine that helps you safely achieve your dreams. Sign up for a complimentary consultation today.

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