Fitness Articles

Low-Impact Exercises That Burn Major Calories

Easy-on-the-Joints Workouts That Really Deliver!

14KSHARES
If you're new to exercise, overweight, or dealing with pain caused by an injury or a chronic condition like arthritis, your doctor may have recommended that you start a low-impact workout program. But what does "low impact" really mean—and can it really help you burn enough calories to lose weight and get in shape?
 
For an exercise to be low impact, one foot must always be in contact with the ground or your weight must be supported by water or by a machine. So you've got plenty of options when it comes to choosing a low-impact workout—and that doesn't mean it has to be easy (unless you want it to be). The things you want to avoid are high-impact moves like running, jumping, skipping rope, plyometrics and dance workouts that involve leaping.
 
Here are 15 low-impact workouts you can try today, ranked by calorie burn (based on a 150-pound female exercising for 30 minutes). Remember, the amount of calories you will burn during a particular fitness routine is determined by several factors including your weight, gender and intensity level. You can calculate your individual calorie burn using SparkPeople's free Fitness Tracker.)

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference. Scroll below the graphic for details and tips for each type of exercise.


Kettlebell Class:  600 calories per half hour
Kettlebell classes combine strength training and cardio conditioning by using special spherical weights called kettlebells that you move in a swinging motion—and they're one of the highest calorie burners around. While kettlebell workouts are considered strength training, the moves are so intense (engaging many large muscle groups) that they also elevate your heart rate to an aerobic level simultaneously. If you're new to kettlebells, you'll want to get to class early and have the teacher explain proper form and technique. Spend the first part of the class watching the instructor carefully and only join in once you understand how each motion is supposed to be completed. These classes typically involve traditional strength-training movements like squats, presses and snatches, along with kettlebell-specific moves like swings, arranged in a circuit to boost the cardio burn. Because one or both feet are usually planted on the floor when using kettlebells, the closed-chain, low-impact movements are easy on the joints when done correctly.

Lap Swimming: 363 calories per half hour
Swimming is a great, no-impact exercise that maximizes calorie burn. You may feel awkward about wearing a bathing suit in public, but if you go early in the morning, you're likely to find a small group of people who are just like you. Start with a basic freestyle stroke (or crawl) that you likely learned as a child. You'll use all your major muscles including your back, shoulders, core and glutes to propel yourself through the water. Besides a supportive swim suit, you might want to consider buying a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the chlorine (and so you can see where you're going). Water exercise has a host of benefits; in addition to being easy on the joints, people generally work harder in water without perceiving their workouts as intense, thanks to the water's cooling effects.
Continued ›
Page 1 of 5   Next Page ›
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
14KSHARES

About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.


Member Comments

  • These are some good ideas. Walking is free anytime and I do a lot of it. I also enjoy circuit training with my adjustable dumbbell set that was a gift. I would love to see more ideas that don't require a gym or machines. Some I've done include hiking, rock climbing, and simple low-impact aerobics. - 1/25/2016 6:11:27 PM
  • I am fortunate to have a treadmill and a stationary bike -although I haven't tried using the bike recently - don't know how it will be on my back. My workouts since I returned to Spark have consisted of treadmill and aerobic moves plus some outdoor walking - all low impact. Most of these ideas involve joining a gym which is outside my budget at the moment and I'm sure there are many others in the same situation. - 1/25/2016 12:54:17 PM
  • We just took out a family pass to our local community center, which houses both a fitness center and a pool. While my husband and oldest child visit the fitness center, I take the two younger kids to the pool. My mom and are going to start attending, just the two of us, during Adult Lane Swim time. As I am recovering from a serious knee injury, and my quad muscles are still very weak (putting me at risk for injury recurrence), swimming is the perfect exercise for me right now. - 1/25/2016 7:53:13 AM
  • I know this has been said here before but saying it again.
    Zumba has a program called Zumba gold we offer low impact slower pace yet fun and a calorie burning class there is also a seated class . I know because I teach this.
    Our gym offers silver sneakers also some insurances pay the gym with no cost to you.
    I like this article it offered options! - 1/23/2016 11:29:55 AM
  • I agree . . . Exercise is not one-size-fits-all . . . I have suffered injury doing stuff like yoga (pulled muscles), rebounder (pulled muscle, had to have physical therapy), and Zumba . . . don't even want to think about it . - 1/20/2016 11:16:27 AM
  • DANDYLINES
    I really do not think the author knows what he is talking about - almost every one of these has medium to high impact - not necessarily on the legs, but on other joints. Every swimming has impact - I should know. Swimming is my exercise of choice because of arthritis but I still have to be careful in what I do and the intensity. Maybe some more research is needed. I would NOT recommend the accuracy of this article at all. - 9/20/2015 7:13:41 PM
  • I picked the article because of inflammation in my leg, but there's waaay too many weight bearing options... and no pool available, so, I'll just do the floor work I was planning on. Points, but points for nuttin' really - 9/20/2015 12:34:41 PM
  • Kettle bells, boxing & Power Yoga for people with arthritis, just starting or seriously overweight? Seriously? Disappointed in the article & Spark. - 4/26/2015 5:00:38 PM
  • The calorie counts are way off, or calculated using the "average" person. I'm in my 60s, 60 pounds overweight and took a Zumba Gold 60-minute class, wearing a fitness monitor. According to that, I burned 350 calories in hour.

    You can make Zumba as high- or low-impact as you want. I don't do any jumps, and I minimize the twisting and knee dips. I don't have any problems with Zumba Gold.

    - 4/25/2015 11:57:23 AM
  • I would like to see a formula for figuring out how many calories I would burn at my weight. - 4/25/2015 11:53:08 AM
  • If you don't have an activity tracker, you don't know how many calories you're burning. Not much point in arguing what a chart says. - 4/25/2015 1:22:56 AM
  • GILDERELDA
    I know that in the 45-50 minute Hydrofit class that I teach, 130 calories is just waaay too low! That being said, Water aerobics can be done at any speed and is for all abilities and fitness levels - the key is just keep moving !!! Very little stress on the joints is a plus, too !!!
    - 2/22/2015 9:51:42 PM
  • I go to a family Zambia class. Up front one one side there are mothers with small children. The mothers do what they can and the children jump around. The other side up front are people that don't need a teacher they know what they are doing. On one side in the back are pre teen and teens that put their own spin on Zambia, and in the last corner are those of us that have to take it a little slower, not jump so much, just learning or for some other reason don't fit we fit in any other corner. Several times during the class the someone from the group that knew what they were doing would take over the class and the instructor would join each group in turn, even jumping up and down with the 3 year olds. She said she wanted to make sure everyone knew that it didn't matter how we did it. What mattered was that we were all welcome and we were all out there doing something. - 2/21/2015 7:58:27 PM
  • There is regular Zumba and there is Zumba Gold for older folks or folks with joint problems. Even In regular zumba which is what I do and I am 70 years old I modify when something is too difficult or hurts my bones. Zumba really burns the calories. A good instructor always tells you to do what is comfortable for you.
    - 2/21/2015 4:06:53 PM
  • I'm excited to try some of these workouts - 8/10/2014 3:56:33 AM

x Lose 10 Pounds by March 23! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.