Low Impact Exercise

High-impact exercise is a great way to quickly raise your heart rate during exercise, help build muscle strength and aid to improve bone density. However, there are reasons when high-impact exercises like running, rugby and football just simply aren’t options. Times where you may have to avoid high-impact exercise include pregnancy, specific heart conditions, joint or bony injuries like some recent sports injuries, stress fractures, chronic conditions and arthritis. Low-impact exercise can also be a great way to begin your exercise journey, or if you’re overweight or you just don’t like high-impact activity.

Often we are motivated to lose weight and stay healthy and fit but are frustratingly restricted in the exercises we can do due to sore knee, hip or back joints. Low-impact exercise is described as any activity that maintains one foot on the ground at all times. These activities are often performed in a controlled manner where you can decide on speed, intensity and difficulty. Due to the nature of low-impact exercise, excessive joint loading that leads to recurrent pain and swelling can be significantly reduced, resulting in more consistent exercise with better health outcomes.

One important factor of any exercise is to get your cardiovascular system working to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve fitness levels. Low-impact exercise should aim to increase your heart rate to help work your cardiovascular system but at a lower intensity than high-impact activity. Other benefits of low-impact activity also include reduced risk of injury and improved flexibility. It is important to consult your doctor prior to exercising if you are pregnant or have heart issues to make sure you exercise safely within your limits.

Swimming and water aerobics

Water based activity is a great way to minimise load through your joints while still getting great exercise. Swimming is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise to help with fitness and can also help you to lose weight and strengthen muscles through your shoulders, core and legs. Water aerobics can also improve your muscle tone and cardiovascular fitness in a group setting.

Walking and hiking

Walking is a popular low-impact exercise as you don’t need any equipment and it is self-paced. This means you can decide on the distance and speed of your walk. The faster you walk, the higher your heart rate will go for a bigger calorie burn. On average, a 180-pound individual will burn 100 calories per mile (Bumgardner 2018). Hiking adds an extra element of difficulty with rougher terrain that can target leg muscle strength and further cardiovascular work.

Tai Chi

While Tai Chi is not a cardiovascular exercise, it is a low-impact activity that targets strength, balance and flexibility. This is a great exercise that can help you to feel stronger if you are unable to participate in aerobic exercise due to specific heart issues or health reasons.

Cycling and cross-trainer

Riding is a great low-impact exercise that reduces stress and load through your joints. This is an excellent activity to choose when you are just starting out or motivated to push yourself further with a cycle class. As with cycling, the cross-trainer is great for cardiovascular fitness and leg strengthening without the extra impact through your knee and hip joints that running presents.


Pilates focusses on improving posture, muscle strength, core strength, balance and flexibility. Pilates is suitable for all ages and fitness levels but is also great for those who may have chronic conditions, injuries, joint pain, back pain or pregnancy to continue to keep physically active.


Bumgardner, W (2018) How Many Calories Does Walking Burn per Mile? Verywellfit. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfit.com/walking-calories-burned-by-miles-3887154