Fitness Articles

Low-Impact Exercises That Burn Major Calories

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

By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer         
Page 2 of 5

Boxing Class: 287 calories per half hour
Don't worry, you won't actually have to hit someone if you take a boxing class. Instead, you'll hit punching bags and shadow box (throw punches that don't make contact with anything), which is more challenging than it sounds. Your boxing instructor will likely lead you through some traditional calisthenics (be sure to skip the jumping jacks and burpees, which are high-impact) as well as squats, wall sits and sit-ups. If you explain your needs or limitations ahead of time, a good instructor will offer you alternate moves for jumping exercises. Note that some boxing classes also involve various kicking drills. Keeping one foot on the ground at all times will keep your joints a little safer, so skip any jumping or hinge kicks.

Rowing Machine: 281 calories per half hour
Few cardio workouts work your body from head to toe—without impact—the way rowing does. If you use proper form, a rowing machine will target all your major muscle groups, as well as provide a serious cardiovascular challenge for any fitness level. You can control the intensity of the workout by increasing or decreasing the resistance of the machine and/or your own speed. To increase the calorie burn, try doing intervals of one minute of all-out effort, followed by a minute or two of lower intensity to catch your breath. Repeat the intervals 10 times to start. You can experiment with adjusting the length of time you spend at max effort versus recovery, as well as the number of intervals you complete per session.

Circuit Training:  264 calories per half hour
Circuit training adds an aerobic challenge to resistance training by alternating between different muscle-strengthening exercises with little to no rest between exercises. This elevates the heart rate and makes for a super-efficient workout. Many bootcamp-style fitness classes use circuits to burn calories and build muscles at the same time. You can design your own circuit workouts using simple equipment like dumbbells, medicine balls and even your own body weight.

Spinning: 238 calories per half hour
Although Spinning (indoor cycling) happens in a class environment, it's a very personal workout: You control everything from your speed to your resistance level, and no one but you knows just how hard you're working (or if you're taking it easy). Spinning is perfect for people who can't follow the choreography of a typical aerobics class since all you have to do is pedal a stationary bike. But if you push yourself, you certainly feel a burn in your lungs and your legs that means you're building strength and endurance. If it's your first class, make sure your instructor helps you set up your bike properly; this will help keep your joints at the proper angle and alignment so that they don't become irritated or painful as you ride. At first, your "seat" will likely be sore after class but that should diminish over time. You can also wear padded bike shorts to ease the discomfort.
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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

  • Skipping rope is low impact you only need to lift your feet high enough to let the rope pass under them. - 4/16/2016 1:47:17 PM
  • On whether you'll get hit when taking a boxing class, you won't if you're not boxing. When I was young, I took boxing classes at the YMCA. At the end, each participant in fact did box someone else, and because the instructor was close at hand, he was able to stop any type of punch that looked harder than it should have for the level you were boxing. - 4/8/2016 9:24:12 PM
  • Exercises for people with mobility issues can be found in this video:
    s-detail.asp?video=38 - 3/12/2016 11:52:55 PM
  • There are exercises on SparkPeople for people confined to seated positions. Look in under the fitness tab. - 3/12/2016 11:50:07 PM
  • I actually have a question. I am in a wheelchair and want to find excerises to burn calories. If u have suggestions i would appreciate it.THANKS.
    - 3/12/2016 4:49:30 PM
  • Circuit and HIIT training are paying off for me. I see definition on my body and the results are amazing! - 3/12/2016 10:32:35 AM
    I think my water aerobics class burns more. We do high-intensity Tabata intervals as maximum effort. - 3/7/2016 7:12:15 PM
  • Hula hooping should be on that list. I burn approximately 550kcal per hour and it has a very low impact! - 3/7/2016 6:10:10 PM
  • A number of comments on this article question the amount of calorie burn, based on their personal experience. I hope everyone read the article, not just view the chart, as the author explains that the measurements shown are for a 150 lb female for 30 minutes. - 2/18/2016 9:25:33 AM
  • 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
    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

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