If you picture a workout that really makes you work, it probably includes moves like hill sprints or burpees - known as "high-impact" exercises in the fitness world because they involve literal impact between your feet and the ground. These moves sure seem like they offer the best workout, but don't discount lower-impact exercises. Low-impact does not mean low-intensity - that's a fitness myth that needs to die. In reality, while high-impact workouts like running certainly have their benefits, there are all kinds of reasons you might need or want to opt for a low-impact workout instead.
An injury or condition (such as osteoporosis, for example) is a very good reason to avoid crashing your limbs against the pavement. But even perfectly nimble and healthy people might want to opt for a low-impact move now and again. Too much impact can wear at your joints over time and cause injuries later. These workouts don't have to feel like a sacrifice or like you're resigning to something easy. Here are 22 low-impact workouts that will still make you break a sweat.
Take your yoga practice to the skies with aerial yoga - a newer type of yoga that involves hoisting yourself into the air using thick pieces of cloth or other equipment. These poses can take you to heights you'd never thought possible, building confidence and core strength without any added stress on your limbs.
Barre is a dance- and Pilates-inspired workout that combines philosophies of both into one dynamic class. But you don't need to have a background in dance to give it a try. The instructor of the barre class will guide you through the movements, most of which are small and set to the beat of the music. But don't let these workouts fool you. Just because the movements are small doesn't mean they aren't tough - the next day, you're sure to feel sore.
With battle ropes, you can get all the intensity of explosive jumps and other high-impact moves without any stress on your knees and joints. Battle rope workouts involve tossing around thick, heavy ropes. Some trainers will pair the moves on battle ropes with jumps, but leaving these out doesn't cut back on difficulty.
Bodyweight strength workouts
Looking for a workout you can do anywhere, without the help of a gym or a class? There are tons of strength-building moves you can do using just your own body. Push-ups, planks, lunges, squats... Those are just a few of hundreds of moves you could try. Write out a plan and include some sets of different exercises to create your own workout routine. To keep things interesting, add some variations to your moves, give yourself goals (achievable ones!) and search the internet for bodyweight routines you might not have tried on your own. Luckily, there are lots of resources and even video tutorials out there to help you along the way.
While running can wear on your bones and joints over time, cycling has none of the risk of impact. But ask anyone who's been to a spin class - cycling can get your heart rate flying. You can cycle outside with a real bike to take in the scenery and get some fresh air. You can also use a stationary bike at your gym or at a studio.
Not all dancing is low-impact. Some dance involves things like running, jumping or falling to the floor. And some fitness classes that revolve around dance, including Zumba, might be just as tough on the knees as a plyometric workout. But many types of dance don't involve any of those things, or can easily be modified to keep those moves out. Consider trying ballroom dancing, salsa or any other type of dance that strikes your fancy.
The elliptical gets dumped on for its questionable effectiveness and boredom factor - but some people who try it really love it. And one thing that it has to its favor is that it puts zero stress on your ankles or knees. Since your feet never leave the foot pedals of the machine, you can push yourself to your highest capacity risk-free.
Golf might not be the fastest-paced sport in the world, but it still works up a sweat. Long walks among hills with intermittent powerful swings can add up to quite the workout. Playing golf is also a good way to stay social and meet new people, which can be great for your mental and physical health!
Hikes range in intensity and duration, so if you do your research about the best hiking paths in your area, you can choose the right one for your fitness level. Plus, why pass on an opportunity to see gorgeous hidden waterfalls and other scenic views that may line your path?
You might not think of kayaking as a formal type of exercise, but it definitely is. And if you live near one of the best beaches in America, there are probably kayak rentals available nearby. Work your arms, abs and heart rate while spending some quality time on the water.
Pilates classes use props or large machines called reformers to build strength and flexibility. These classes use slow, controlled movements and may not be fast-paced, but are certainly difficult to master. The sore muscles you feel after sweating through a Pilates class are the kind that sneak up on you the day after. And since you spend much of the class in a reclined position, your body will experience almost no impact with the ground.
You don't need to find a jagged cliff and a harness to try rock climbing for yourself. Rock climbing machines have become a popular machine in gyms. And if you don't want to join a gym, you could find a rock climbing venue in your area. It's challenging, fun and an adrenaline-pumping way to build up your hand-eye coordination.
Rowing machines are a mainstay of most gyms, and nowadays there are even rowing studios where you can try rowing in a boutique-style fitness class. These machines work your legs, your core and (of course) your arms - really, a rowing machine will work your whole body. Pick up the pace to get your heart racing or turn up the resistance to build strength and take it slow. Either way, these machines can be tough.
If you've ever gotten winded at the top of a flight of stairs, you know how difficult these climbs can be. Use the Stairmaster machine at your gym or simply find a staircase outside or in your apartment building. After a few flights, your legs will no doubt be burning.
Step workouts get your heart rate up and keep you moving for a full-body, dynamic and fast-paced workout. This workout format is also a group fitness class, which can be a fun way to get into working out if you hate every type of exercise you've tried solo.
In addition to keeping your joints completely safe from any impact, swimming has a plethora of other benefits. It can help improve lung function, build strength and keep your heart healthy. Try swimming laps if you have access to a large enough pool. You can sprint for a HIIT-style workout or train at a steady state for longer distances.
Tai chi might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about types of exercise. But you might really enjoy it if you gave it a try. In addition to the many benefits of exercise, tai chi offers a little extra by helping with coordination to prevent falls in older adults and relieving tension headaches. In fact, tai chi may actually be more effective than other types of exercise at relieving stress, according to research.
TRX training is a specialized form of suspension training that uses equipment attached to the wall to leverage gravity for your workout. You can use TRX to build flexibility, strength, cardiovascular endurance and core stability. There are hundreds of moves you can accomplish using just this one piece of equipment. And you can trust it's effective - the equipment was designed by a former U.S. Navy Seal.
Don't discount walking as a workout. Walking daily can have transformative benefits to your body and your mind. Walk home from work, take your pet for a lengthy stroll or simply walk on a treadmill to reap the many benefits of this low-intensity exercise.
If you love working out in the water but hate working out alone, water aerobics could be just the thing for you. The classes can be social, the atmosphere can be fun and the benefits are all there. Some class formats use weights in the water to build strength or keep you moving constantly to build up your cardiovascular endurance.
Lifting weights can be a challenging, goal-oriented way to build strength and stability. Some people like to use lighter weights for higher repetitions while others prefer to use much heftier weights for just a few reps.
Yoga has been around a lot longer than modern civilization; truly, it has withstood the test of time. The mindfulness-focused practice has wide-reaching benefits for your physical health and your mental well-being. Yoga can be practiced in many forms, and can range in intensity and skill-level. Most yoga classes are for all levels and can be highly individualized through instructions from the leader of the class. Yoga isn't for everyone, but it's worth giving a try. And if you don't like it, you could always try another trendy workout - there are some newer types of workouts you might not have even heard of.
More from The Active Times:
Exercising for the First Time? Here's Everything You Need to Know
10 Ways Your Body Changes When You Start Working Out
I Tried 7 Trendy Workout Routines. Here Are My Favorites
25 Annoying Things You Should Never Do at the Gym
Everything You Need to Know About Working Out Over 50