Running burns a ton of calories, so do jump rope and jumping jacks. But they’re also super high-impact. High impact meaning that, at some point during the exercise in question, both feet are off the floor so you land with a resounding thump. If you have had any issues such as lower limb problems, are pregnant, overweight or simply hate jumping up and down, you’re probably looking for alternatives that will let you burn a lot of calories, but go easy on the joints.
We give you the lowdown on low impact exercises that will help you torch fat, get fit, and lose weight. But just like running, jump rope and other high-impact exercises, you have to stick with it and focus on making it an effective workout.
Rowing is a tough workout, torches fat, works just about every muscle in your body and is completely impact-free. You can row on water or, for a more accessible workout, use in indoor rowing machine. Whichever you choose, always row using good technique as poor technique can result in injury – especially to your lower back. Learn proper rowing technique from a qualified rowing coach or personal trainer.
2. Stair climbing
Stair climbing will tone and strengthen your legs, improve your cardiovascular fitness and also burn lots of calories. You can climb real stairs such as the steps at your local sports stadium or nearby office block, or use a stair climbing machine as preferred. Whichever option you choose, make sure you place the whole of your foot on the step and try to push down through your heels as well as the balls of your feet to ensure you work all of your leg muscles as effectively as possible.
Cycling is an incredible calorie burner whether you ride outdoors, use a stationary bike or love yourself a spinning class. Cycling is another great no-impact activity that can help you maintain a high level of fitness and burn a ton calories. So long as your bike is set up properly, cycling is relatively easy on your joints although some people find the repetitive pedaling motion can cause knee and hip pain. If you cycle outdoors always wear a helmet and bright, high-visibility clothing.
4. Hill walking
Running on the flat and walking uphill are easily comparable in terms of calorie burn and getting a good cardiovascular workout. However, hill walking is way lower impact than running. Walking uphill means the ground comes up to meet your feet and working against gravity ensures you still have to work hard. If you like to use a treadmill but find running hurts your joints, crank up the incline, slow down your pace and walk instead. No holding onto the handrails though – that just makes your workout less effective.
5. Elliptical machine
Elliptical machines mimic running but eliminate all of the impact, making it an superb alternative to the treadmill. However, for an awesome workout you have to keep focused and keep pushing yourself throughout the entire workout. On the treadmill you set your speed and simply run as fast as the treadmill belt is moving, while on the elliptical you only go as fast as you move your arms and legs. That means you have to keep pushing hard for a great workout.
Like most cardiovascular machines, ellipticals have built-in computers programmed with a variety of workouts and a boatload of data feeding back from your workout, which you can use to motivate yourself to keep working hard. Using your arms and legs together means you work both your upper and lower body, plus you’ll burn a lot of calories – especially if you get your speed up to 140 steps per minute or above.
The ultimate low-impact workout, swimming is a great way to burn lots of calories while strengthening every major muscle in your body. As long as you swim with focus and determination and don’t just float along, swimming can help you get very fit without placing much stress on your joints. The water completely supports your body weight so you’re essentially weightless, making it ideal for people recovering from injury and heavier exercises.
7. Circuit training
Moving quickly from one weight training exercise to the next for a series of six to ten or more is a great way to burn a whole lot of calories and get a great total body strength and cardio workout without actually having to do any recognizable cardio-type exercises. So if you have cardio – circuit-training is for you. By using compound or multi-joint exercises that work a bunch of muscles such as squats, lunges and shoulder presses, you’ll keep calorie burning high and get a lot of work done in a very short time. Arrange your exercise in a legs/push/pull sequence and perform each exercise for time or a pre-determined number of reps as preferred. Most gyms offer a class version of circuit training.
8. Punch bags
Hitting a punch bag meets is low-impact on the lower body. However, it does put a fair bit of impact though your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. If you have no upper body issues, hitting a punch bag is a great calorie burner, an excellent stress buster, and a good way to get and stay fit. Set a timer and punch for three-minutes and then rest for one – just like a real boxer. Keep moving your feet and switching your punches from high to low. Don’t try and make every punch a knockout though as you’ll soon get tired! Always wear boxing gloves to protect your hands and never punch with bent wrists or your thumbs tucked inside your fists.
9. Step aerobics
Although some step aerobics moves involve jumping, the vast majority are low impact and most instructors will provide a low impact alternative to make their classes accessible to everyone. Step was actually invented by an aerobics teacher recovering from a knee injury and it tends to be quite suitable for exercisers looking for an effective and demanding but low impact workout.
10. Low-impact aerobics
Grapevines, marching on the spot, squats, half jacks and lunges are all common moves in low-impact aerobics classes. The golden rule of low-impact aerobics is that you always keep one foot on the ground. Just because a class is low impact, doesn’t mean its low intensity. There are a lot of high intensity but low impact moves that will ensure you burn the maximum number of calories in your workout. Check out your local gyms for low impact aerobics classes – a fun way to get fit and lose weight.
Low impact exercises can be every bit as effective as high impact exercises and may even be better for many people as they tend to be easier on the joints and generally safer. Just because you can’t or don’t want to run or jump doesn’t mean you can’t get fit and lean. When it comes to exercise, the best option is the one you can do comfortably, that offers the maximum amount of benefit for the least amount of risk and that you enjoy. No excuses!