Fitness Articles

Low-Impact Exercises That Burn Major Calories

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

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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

  • I'm excited to try some of these workouts - 8/10/2014 3:56:33 AM
  • SADDHU1 - It is off, because it's under. I'm 130lbs, and I burn 200cals in ten minutes. That would put me at 1800 for an hour. Kettlebells are an extremely efficient, strength building, and fat burning workout. Just because you don't know about a certain exercise, doesn't mean it can't burn more than you think it does. - 6/10/2014 1:25:12 PM
  • I don't get all these people who say that Zumba is not low-impact. It is as high or low impact as a person makes it. Show up early or stay late and ask your Zumba instructor for possible modifications to any high-impact moves, or simply look around in your class and notice other exercisers who come up with their own low-impact substitutions. For example instead of jumping, simply rise gently on the balls of the feet. Instead of twisting the knees in and out, just move the feet to the beat. Other people are in Zumba to get their own workout. They are not judging your modifications-- heck, some might even appreciate them and adopt them. - 10/9/2013 10:48:59 AM
  • Some of these calorie burning estimates are way off. A 150 lb woman burns 1200 cal per hr for Kettlebell class? Seriously? I would count that hr long class as burning 360-420 calories. SparkPeople should not contribute to the phenomena of people thinking their workout burns more calories than it does, a common fallacy that prevents weight loss. Working with correct numbers is a must! - 10/9/2013 10:40:41 AM
  • EMERALDISLES
    There is low impact zumba classes out there. What about rowing? That's low impact. - 8/22/2013 10:19:40 AM
  • Great to have things to try to help w/o aggravating my arthritis! TY :) - 7/27/2013 5:19:07 PM
  • Great article. However i am very skeptical about calorie burn information. I have been doing kettle bell workouts and never burned so much in 1 hour as they promise in 30 minutes. Same goes for other types of exercising. - 7/27/2013 11:08:44 AM
  • KBABYLOVE
    I wish there were some picture posted of chair exercise that I could do at work in my 8 hrs shift of sitting! =)
    - 7/26/2013 2:01:17 PM
  • Zumba is definitely not low impact. I suffer from back and knee pain and my doctor told me to stop doing zumba because it was making my problems much worse. Maybe I'll try a kettle bell class though, I didn't realize they burned so many calories. - 7/26/2013 9:15:40 AM
  • I don't consider many of these to be low impact for my health situation, but it I take the parts of each that I can do and go with that, then I see results. For instance I would not be able to last a zumba class, but put on a few oldies and dance with the parts of me that works, and I have a work out for as long as I can last. It would be low impact because I am not impacting those parts that could not stand up to the impact of harsh jumping or pounding. Throw in a few exercises to the beat and I have a pretty good work out, then add my recumbent bike and I have my program. - 6/29/2013 11:27:00 PM
  • I also love Zumba, but it can be very hard on the knees, lots of twisting. I have heard there are classes that are toned down for physical issues, but I have not found any in my area yet. I have substituted a Jazzercise Light (lower impact) for Zumba, so I can still dance for some cardio. - 6/29/2013 8:12:38 PM
  • CDARBY1999
    Love the article. Wish there were more articles geared toward men - 6/29/2013 4:28:11 PM
  • When you are overweight and have not been doing any or much exercise then every exercise seems hard! We live in northern Canada and a blackfly and bear area so we don't get out to walk like we would like to and have tons of snow in the winter.
    I find it easier and more convenient to walk or a slight jog in place for my daily routine especially to get me to start moving and exercise again. We all get too discouraged too fast! This really helps me! - 6/29/2013 12:11:29 PM
  • I agree Zumba is definitely NOT low impact. I love Zumba, but it takes DAYS for my ankles to recover. They swell up and look like tennis balls afterwards! I have had to switch to walking. I am thinking about a beginning spin class next week, though. - 6/29/2013 11:56:55 AM
  • I really should try kettlebells, too.
    - 6/29/2013 8:27:58 AM
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