Low Impact Sports and How to Keep Moving

August 7th, 2017 Becki Andrus

Low Impact Exercises

One of the biggest problems for most people when it comes to exercise and playing sports is that it can quickly become too hard on the joints to maintain that level of activity. This is especially true if you have sustained an injury or have a chronic condition that leaves you with joint pain.

Instead of giving up on sports and exercise entirely, you should consider trying out some low-impact activities. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of exercise every week to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To help with this, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a variety of low-impact workouts that will not only provide plenty of exercise but keep your joints protected as well.

What is a Low-Impact Workout?

Physical therapy and sports medicine professionals usually define a low-impact workout as any physical activity or sport with minimal wear or pressure on your joints.

Don’t confuse low-impact with low intensity, though. Many workouts that are considered low-impact can still provide a serious workout that will give you a great physique.

The important thing to remember with any physical activity is that you need to find something that you enjoy doing. There are so many options available, so keep trying until you find the one that you look forward to. This is the best way to ensure that you stay consistent with your exercise.

If you are not sure where to begin, this list will give you several great starting points for low-impact activities that will help you keep moving.

1. Yoga

This may not seem like the type of activity that would offer a good workout, but you might be surprised. Even the slower-paced variations of yoga can provide plenty of intensity if you engage your muscles properly. There are so many types of yoga available that just about anyone can find a practice that they enjoy.

One of the best things about any yoga practice is the fact that there is always room for modification. Yoga is inherently a low-impact activity, but any good instructor will be able to help you find additional modifications and adjustments to prevent stress or pain in your joints, especially if you are injured.

2. Swimming

Swimming is one of the best total-body workouts available to you, and it is ideal for anyone recovering from injury or dealing with joint pain. Water provides considerable resistance, which means that even the simplest movements become more challenging. However, it also provides a considerable amount of buoyancy that almost entirely offsets the joint compression you would normally experience out of the water.

If swimming is not an activity you enjoy, or you begin to feel bored with the repetition of swimming laps, a water aerobics class might be worth looking into instead. You will get all of the benefits of water activity without the monotony of working on the same strokes over and over.

3. Cycling

Whether you take an indoor cycling class or hit the open road, cycling is a fantastic cardio workout that is easy on the joints. If you are new to cycling or don’t want to spend the money to purchase the necessary equipment, indoor cycling classes are the way to go. Stationary bicycles offer customizable resistance, and the instructor will help you adjust the bike so that you have a safe, effective workout.

If you want to take up outdoor cycling instead, be sure to visit a professional bicycle shop to get outfitted with the proper riding gear and a bicycle that is suited to your build.

4. Rowing or Kayaking

If you love being out on the water, consider canoeing or kayaking for a warm weather workout. Rowing is a low-impact exercise that works all of your major muscle groups, which means it is an ideal way to get a little extra movement into your day.

For those of you who prefer to exercise indoors, a rowing machine works just as well. You can get the same core and lower back workout from the comfort of your air-conditioned gym.

5. Cross Country Skiing

This is probably not the type of activity you would think is considered low-impact, but cross country skiing actually does not place much stress on any of your muscle groups or joints. When you add in the fact that the sport works every major muscle group and burns hundreds of calories, it makes this a viable option for anyone trying to take it easy on their joints.

While this is not a sport that is easily accessible year-round, it is definitely worth trying if you live in a snowy area.

6. Elliptical Training

This one does require a gym membership or a machine at home, but it is one of the most basic exercise routines you can do to stay fit while minimizing stress on your joints.

Ellipticals are an especially good choice for athletes and runners because they provide a cardio workout similar to running but without the risk of aggravating an injury. This is also an excellent workout for those who enjoy running but are struggling with arthritis.

Final Thoughts

All of the workouts mentioned in this list can be modified to increase or decrease the intensity of your workout. To increase the calories burned and muscles worked, focus on adding intervals of increased speed or resistance. To dial back the intensity, try fewer reps, a slower pace or modified posture.

It is a common misconception that you have to go as hard as you can and completely wear yourself out in order to get a great, effective workout. Sports medicine and physical therapy specialists will be the first to tell you that this just isn’t the case. While a strenuous workout can be beneficial if it is done safely, you can achieve the same fitness goals with a workout that inflicts only a fraction of the wear and tear on your joints.

If you are recovering from an injury, experiencing joint pain or simply looking for a gentler way to work out, try these low-impact exercises to help you stay in shape.

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