21 Low-Impact Workouts That Are More Effective Than You Think

Every once in a while, you should give your body a break from pounding the pavement, whether you're running, dancing, or playing sports. But before you take this as a sign to sink even deeper into the sofa, try a low-impact workout.

They're easier on your body - your joints will thank you. They can also be a great way to get in a heart-pumping workout without worrying too much about injuries.

Trainers define low-impact as any exercise where one foot stays on the ground at all times. But you don't have to resign yourself to doing single-leg deadlifts until you keel over. We've rounded up 21 low-impact exercises worth trying.

1. Walking

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Walking is a stress-free way to get moving. If taking a leisurely stroll is too easy, there are plenty of ways to add intensity. Hit the hills or add resistance to really get your heart rate up - try dumbbells or ankle weights.

2. Elliptical

Sorry, treadmill. The elliptical takes the cake when it comes to putting less stress on your legs, according to a 2014 study. Try spicing up your routine on the elliptical with a 20-minute interval workout.Kaplan Y, et al. (2014). Referent body weight values in over ground walking, over ground jogging, treadmill jogging, and elliptical exercise. DOI: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.09.004

3. Stair-climber

Feel winded every time you go up a set of stairs? It's time to get acquainted with the stair-climber. If there's no gym nearby, no problem. Any old stairs will work for a killer workout.

4. Strength training

We already have a list of 19 reasons to strength train, and here's one more: Most strength training exercises are low-impact, and they still work up a sweat. Keep in mind that monster box jumps while wearing a weighted vest don't exactly qualify.

5. Cycling

We've loved biking ever since we finally took off our training wheels. It just so happens to be a great way to fit in some exercise without putting as much strain on your joints.

And if you're a commuter, we've got great news. A 2017 study found that cycling to work may reduce your risk of developing heart disease and cancer by 45 percent compared to nonactive commuters. That's some serious pedal power.Celis-Morales CA, et al. (2017). Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: Prospective cohort study. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j1456

6. Rowing

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Here's a super-easy way to get in some cardio while pretending you're soaking up some sun on a boat.

Of course, the fluorescent lights in the gym eventually snap you back to reality. But at least you'll be working out your arms, back, legs, andcore. If you need ideas, give this 30-minute rowing workout a go.

7. Kayaking

Want to actuallyhit the water? Grab a kayak and jump in (or maybe don't jump in, if you want to stay dry). Kayaking works your arms and core (no crunches necessary), and you can see some stellar sights along the way.

8. Tai chi

This gentle, fluid movement improves balance, and it looks downright peaceful, doesn't it? There's more. A 2016 literature review found that tai chi may even ward off depression, dementia, and sleep troubles.Huston P, et al. (2016). Health benefits of tai chi: What is the evidence? //

9. Hiking

Looking to upgrade your walks? Take a day hike! To keep things low-impact, start with low-grade terrain. Save climbing Everest for later.

10. Rock climbing

Have you seen the muscles rock climbers have? They've earned 'em. Climbing requires slow, controlled movements, which means your muscles get a serious workout without the added strain. Trust us - you'll use muscles you didn't even know you had.

11. Yoga

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This ancient practice will have you feeling the burn without feeling the pain. So add some Downward Dogs and Half Moons to your fitness routine. Or try aerial yoga to really take your practice to new heights.

12. Pilates

You aren't going to get a strong core by doing crunches all day long - try Pilates instead. Plus, you may even lose weight without putting too much strain on your joints.

A 2017 study showed that an eight-week Pilates program was enough to help participants change their body composition.Savkin R, et al. (2017). The effect of Pilates exercise on body composition in sedentary overweight and obese women. DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06465-3

13. TRX

TRX gets its name because it lets users do total-body resistance exercises using a strap suspension system (say that three times fast).

The workout is easy on your joints but challenging for the rest of your body. Once you learn the ropes, see if you can master these 44 TRX exercises. We're still recovering.

14. Swimming

Skip the inner tubes and start doing laps. Swimming is a great low-impact exercise with a boatload of benefits, from lowering blood pressureYuan W-X, et al. (2016). Effects of 8-week swimming training on carotid arterial stiffness and hemodynamics in young overweight adults. DOI: 10.1186/s12938-016-0274-y to controlling blood sugar.Connolly LJ, et al. (2016). Low-volume high-intensity swim training is superior to high-volume low-intensity training in relation to insulin sensitivity and glucose control in inactive middle-aged women. DOI: 10.1007/s00421-016-3441-8

15. Water aerobics

If swimming laps gets repetitive, bring aerobics class to the pool. Some gyms even offer underwater treadmills to really keep things interesting. (We may want to rethink calling them “dreadmills.”)

16. Snowshoeing

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For a different kind of walk in the park, strap on a pair of snowshoes.

Research on the health benefits of snowshoeing is limited (we counted three whole studies), but a 2002 paper found that walking on snow - like walking on sand - is more of a workout than walking on pavement. And it's still tame on your body.Connolly DA. (2002). The energy expenditure of snowshoeing in packed vs. unpacked snow at low-level walking speeds. //

17. Step aerobics

There's a reason step aerobics have been around for decades. For a timeless cardio workout without all the pounding, we suggest signing up for a step aerobics class.

If you can't find one at your gym, don't worry. YouTube has a plethora of inspiring '80s aerobic workouts to get you started. (Don't forget your leotard and leg warmers.)

18. Ballroom dancing

Take a tip fromDancing with the Stars.” Dancing is not only super sexy but also gentle on your body. Go grab a partner and give those dips, twists, and twirls a try.

19. Rollerblading

Let's take a trip back to the '90s and strap on some rollerblades. Gliding on pavement puts less stress on your joints while still burning calories. Just make sure you remember how to stop.

20. Cross-country skiing

This flat-terrain travel keeps things heated - even in the cold. So put on your skis and start pumping those poles. You'll keep the pressure light (as powdery snow) on your body. To increase the intensity of your workout, try skiing uphill.

A 2018 study in Finland confirmed that folks who participated in cross-country skiing had a lower risk of mortality from all causes. Just another reason to go grab some skis.Laukkanen JA, et al. (2017). Cross-country skiing is associated with lower all-cause mortality: A population-based follow-up study. DOI: 10.1111/sms.12980

21. Golf

Now, now - golf isn't just for the pros (or the retired). Take a trip to the fairway and get swinging. Bonus points for skipping the golf cart and walking the course.

A 2018 literature review showed that golf improves health in a handful of ways. There's social connection with your golf buddies, time spent outdoors, and movement that promotes strength and balance.Murray AD, et al. (2018). 2018 International Consensus Statement on Golf and Health to guide action by people, policymakers and the golf industry. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099509