Fitness Articles

Low-Impact Exercises That Burn Major Calories

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


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 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
    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
  • 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
    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

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