Fact Checked

What are the Different Types of Low-Impact Fitness?

DM Gutierrez
DM Gutierrez

Low-impact fitness involves exercises that improve agility, flexibility, strength, and endurance without delivering stress to joints like high-impact fitness regimes do. High-impact exercises include running, jogging, and jumping rope, while low-impact fitness programs employ activities such as walking, swimming, and yoga. A rule of thumb when determining if an exercise is high or low-impact is that during low-impact fitness exercises, at least one foot is always on the ground.

Exercise of any kind is an essential part of maintaining a healthy mind and body. Moving muscles and joints raises the heart rate, encourages blood flow, and increases respiration. Some people, either because they are aging, injured, or have a medical condition, are unable to engage in high-impact exercises. Low-impact exercises generally are recommended for everyone, as they don't tend to strain the body as much as the high-impact activities.

Exercise raises the heart rate.
Exercise raises the heart rate.

Walking is one of the easiest low-impact fitness exercises. Walking can be done indoors on a treadmill or in place to a walking DVD, or it can be done outside on a track, sidewalk, or other safe area. Experts often recommend sturdy, comfortable shoes with thick flexible soles for walking programs. Also, walking with a stride that lands the heel first with toes pointed forward generally is most effective. Warming up before and cooling down after walking can be accomplished with slow stretching exercises. After a gradual slow start, walking 10,000 steps a day is typically recommended by fitness experts. Drinking plenty of water also can help ensure hydration and cushion the joints.

Swimming is a low-impact exercise.
Swimming is a low-impact exercise.

Stretching programs such as yoga and Pilates are also common types of low-impact fitness regimes. These exercise programs put little stress on joints since they are slow, steady movements and use progressive relaxation techniques. Stretching warms up the muscles and increases circulation to all parts of the body. Yoga assists with balance while Pilates strengthens the core muscles, including the back and abdomen.

Water aerobics is a less strenuous exercise.
Water aerobics is a less strenuous exercise.

Water aerobics classes are another type of low-impact fitness many people enjoy. Exercising in water helps to cushion the joints and allows pregnant, overweight, or injured people to exercise freely, more often, and with relatively little pain. Adding weights, pool noodles, kickboards, and other devices can increase the benefits of this low-impact fitness exercise.

Yoga is one type of low-impact workout.
Yoga is one type of low-impact workout.

Aerobic dancing also can be a low-impact exercise if jolting movements, such as jumping, leaping, and hopping, are eliminated or modified. Many aerobic dance DVDs demonstrate the exercise motions in levels of high, medium, and low impact. Modifying aerobic dance movements so one foot is always on the ground can turn even a high-impact movement into a low-impact exercise.

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Discussion Comments


My joints cannot really handle the long runs that I used to love to do but I have really enjoyed getting into strength training as a way to keep myself fit. I am not trying to become a body builder or anything, but I like the way it makes my body feel strong and capable even though I can no longer really run.

I worked with a trainer to help me design a low impact lifting routine that would minimize the pain in my joints. There was some discomfort at first, but it passed quickly and now my joints feel stronger than ever. I have hope that maybe one day they will be strong enough to run again.

I have one of those NordicTrack fitness machines that used to be so popular and they are very low impact. Your feet slide back and forth and your arms make this pumping, up and down motion. There is no stepping or landing so you can move around without feeling any impact in your joints.

I suffer from arthritis and this is the best machine I have found that allows me to keep moving without killing my knees and ankles. I think it helps keep the symptoms of the arthritis at bay too. If you let you joints go unused they will only get more creaky and rigid.


Swimming is probably the best kind of low impact fitness. Because so much of the water supports your weight, there are few of the punishing effects of gravity.

Better yet, swimming is one of the best full body exercises you can do. It engages every muscles from head to toe and it combines weight training and cardio into a single activity. There is a reason that swimmers are so strong and lean. That is the body you get from swimming.

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    • Exercise raises the heart rate.
      By: Gelpi
      Exercise raises the heart rate.
    • Swimming is a low-impact exercise.
      By: ikonoklast_hh
      Swimming is a low-impact exercise.
    • Water aerobics is a less strenuous exercise.
      By: american911
      Water aerobics is a less strenuous exercise.
    • Yoga is one type of low-impact workout.
      By: Deklofenak
      Yoga is one type of low-impact workout.
    • Walking on a treadmill is low impact.
      By: starush
      Walking on a treadmill is low impact.