If you’re looking for a fitness routine that’s gentle on your body yet intense enough to kick your metabolism into high gear, you might want to consider a low-impact workout. These types of workouts allow you to participate in high-intensity cardio and strengthening routines without having to endure the joint-jarring motion that happens with moves like box jumps, burpees, running and lunge jumps.
Katie Dunlop, a National Council for Certified Personal Trainers-certified personal trainer, tells SheKnows that high-intensity cardio like HIIT and polymeric exercises can definitely get you feeling the burn, but they’re not always necessary to see results from your workouts. Yes, these higher-intensity workouts burn major calories in a short amount of time, but Dunlop says they can also be extremely challenging, especially if you have knee issues.
The good news? You can give your body a break and still get amazing results with a lower-intensity workout. Not only can low-impact workouts scorch calories, but they also allow you to focus on targeting specific muscle groups, which helps you build muscle and sculpt and tone your entire body. The key, says Dunlop, is spending enough time to get the calorie burn you’re looking for if weight loss is a goal.
Certified personal trainer Trudie German says there are a variety of reasons to participate in low-impact workouts, such as being new to exercise, pregnancy, dealing with joint issues or returning from an injury. “Low-impact workouts are the way to go if you want to slowly build your strength and muscle endurance over time without putting a lot of stress on the joints,” she tells SheKnows. Plus, you can adapt low-impact workouts to any fitness level.
German demonstrates a low-impact workout you can do at home in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. Cycle through the exercises one to three times, but make sure to warm up and cool down for at least three to five minutes.
Looking for a way to tighten up your backside and strengthen your core? These two low-impact workouts from Dunlop will have you feeling the burn without taxing your body.
You don’t need squats and high-impact exercises to sculpt and shape your booty. In fact, Dunlop says these exercises will help you lift your backside and give your glutes a nice round shape while burning fat. It’s a perfect low-impact workout you can do at home without any equipment.
This core-strengthening workout is ideal for any fitness level. Try these exercises at home, at the gym or even at work while on your break.
If time is short but you still want to squeeze a few exercises in, try these three moves from Veronika Cohen, a certified personal trainer at DailyBurn. Combine them for a mini-workout or do them on their own.
The push-up row is a great compound movement that will give you maximum muscular and cardiovascular impact without stressing the joints. “It’s a safe and effective way to target the core, chest, posterior deltoid shoulder muscles all at once,” she tells SheKnows. Plus, it will get your heart rate up because of the number of muscle groups you’re using at one time.
This low-impact move combines a squat into a bicep curl and shoulder press. During the squat, the quads engage as well as your core. The upper-body movement requires you to use your arm and shoulder muscles.
The final exercise is a dead-lift bent-over row. On the dead lift, you use the hamstrings, glutes and low back. During the bent-over row move, you the upper back muscles (lats and rhomboids). Cohen says this is a great option for people with knee sensitivity who can’t do full-range squats.
The husband-wife team at FitnessBlender produce thousands of home workout videos each year. Their beginner low-impact workouts are easy on the joints but intense enough to deliver high-impact results. Here are three of their popular low-impact cardio and strengthening routines.
Did you know that boxing can be a low-impact activity? Sure, boxing requires you to move around, but Olympic-level boxing coach and trainer Cary Williams says that doesn’t necessarily mean jump around. “Since boxing has you going from one exercise to another — i.e., the punching bag, shadow boxing, etc. — you incorporate different muscle groups and keep the pace up without having to hit the pavement,” she explains. During a boxing workout, Williams tells SheKnows you may go light for half the round, but then you go hard and bring it on at the end. Those intense bursts of energy make the workout high-impact.
Williams teaches you how to throw a simple one-two combination in this short video.
So, if you’re looking for a new game plan for this winter, these at-home, low-impact, big-results workouts may be just what you need.
A version of this story was published January 2018.
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