We have noticed you are using an older version internet browser. To gain the best experience from our site we recommend upgrading your internet browser.

What is low impact exercise?

A group of adults use rowing machines in a group fitness class

Whether you’re hoping to get back into exercise after a break or you’re simply looking for a new routine to try, you may have heard of something called low impact exercise. A form of physical activity that is gaining in popularity, it’s something practically anyone can have a go at – but what exactly is it and how can you get involved?

What are low impact exercises?

Low impact exercise is a category of physical activity that can cover a number of different sports and disciplines. It’s not a type of exercise in the same way that strength training or cardio are – in fact, it’s merely a descriptor for all sorts of physical activity that could fit into those categories.

The term ‘low impact’ refers to the effects of the exercise on your joints. If there’s a lot of vigorous up and down movement, then that could be considered high impact and may be painful or tricky to do if you suffer from joint pain. Low impact exercise, in comparison, is far easier on the joints and therefore can be an attractive alternative for many. In fact, low impact activities are a popular choice among those with mobility issues, particularly for those who use crutches or walking sticks.

Before we get into the different examples of low impact exercise below, we strongly advise that you consult a medical professional before starting a new exercise routine, particularly if you have health or mobility issues to consider. Your healthcare team can help you to identify what’s right for you in terms of physical activity to reduce the risk of exacerbating pre-existing conditions.

If you’re still uncertain about what makes low impact exercise low impact, we’ve got some examples of what does and doesn’t count below to help you understand.

Is pilates a low impact exercise?

Pilates is an excellent example of a low impact exercise accessible to many, with community groups and fitness centres often offering beginner-friendly group sessions. Similar to yoga, pilates involves using stretches and simple muscular movements to work your body without putting too much strain on your joints. Pilates is also a highly customisable exercise – you can do something gentle as a warm up, or you can try a more challenging routine if you prefer.

Is cycling a low impact exercise?

This depends on the type of cycling you have in mind. Mountain biking or BMX that involves jumps or uneven terrain strays into the territory of higher impact exercise – but road cycling and commuting are both low impact exercises that can be very rewarding. On top of that, cycling to the shops or to work can help you to save money on car expenses, making it even more beneficial.

Is walking a low impact exercise?

We don’t always think of walking as exercise unless we’re talking about a long hike in the countryside, but in fact any kind of walking counts. Whether you stay on the flat for a walk around your local area or head out into the wilderness over hill and over dale, walking is a kind of low impact exercise that requires very little in the way of equipment.

And if you’re a wheelchair user, don’t think low impact activity is inaccessible. In the same way that walking counts as low impact exercise, so does pushing your manual wheelchair. While hiking trails may need to be researched beforehand to check accessibility, many paved walks and flat trails are just as good for wheelchair users as they are for able-bodied people – and the fresh air is great for you as well.

Is swimming a low impact exercise?

Swimming is an excellent form of low impact exercise that works out the whole body, as well as being great fun. It counts as low impact because the buoyancy of your body in the water naturally softens the impacts of any movements on your joints, making it a great choice for those who want to ease their arthritis or other joint problems.

Is running a low impact exercise?

We’ve included this last part as an example of what isn’t a low impact exercise to help you understand the difference. Running – and similar activities like jogging, skipping and jumping – is classed as a high impact activity. Every time your foot strikes the floor at speed, it sends a little shockwave up through your leg, which can often cause pain in the knees and other leg joints. While walking involves similar motions, the lower speed softens the impact.

Is running a low impact exercise?

Because of this, not only is running a high impact activity, but so are other sports that involve it. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you suffer from knee pain, you probably ought to steer away from high impact sports such as football, rugby, rounders and cricket. If you’ve been advised to avoid high impact exercise by your doctor or another medical professional, you can ask them for more clarification on which activities are recommended for your situation.

Is low impact exercise the same as gentle exercises?

One common misconception about low impact exercise is that it is less intense or less worthwhile than what might be termed ‘normal’ exercise. First of all, as we’ve demonstrated above, many popular forms of exercise are classed as low impact, so it’s not the case that low impact exercise is in any way obscure or unusual.

Secondly, low impact doesn’t have to mean low intensity. You can take gentle low impact exercise if you choose – and in fact this may be the best option for you depending on your mobility and current physical fitness. But just because low impact exercise reduces the strain on your joints, doesn’t mean you can’t get a proper, sweaty workout out of it.

Take rowing, for example. Whether you’re out on the water in a boat or simply using a rowing machine at the gym or at home, rowing is known to be a great cardio workout that strengthens arm, leg and core muscles while helping you to build up a sweat and improve your cardio. It’s also, believe it or not, a low impact exercise. As such, many people prefer rowing to running or jogging.

Take rowing, for example. Whether you’re out on the water in a boat or simply using a rowing machine at the gym or at home, rowing is known to be a great cardio workout that strengthens arm, leg and core muscles while helping you to build up a sweat and improve your cardio. It’s also, believe it or not, a low impact exercise. As such, many people prefer rowing to running or jogging.

The benefits of low impact exercise can be huge, and hopefully we’ve piqued your interest in this great form of physical activity so you can get started soon. There really is something for everyone!.

Call Us:
Order Line:
Enquiry Line:
Calls to the order line cost 13p per minute plus network extras
Pay Using
Accepted Payment Methods
Safe & Secure Shopping
Safe and Secure Payment Logos

Copyright © 2024 Chums

PayPal Representative Example:

Representative 23.9% APR (variable) Purchase interest rate 23.9% p.a. (variable) Assumed Credit limit £1,200. PayPal Credit and PayPal Pay in 3 are trading names of PayPal UK Ltd, Whittaker House, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Surrey, United Kingdom, TW9 1EH. Terms and conditions apply. Credit subject to status, UK residents only, Chums Ltd acts as a broker and offers finance from a restricted range of finance providers. PayPal Pay in 3 is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Pay in 3 eligibility is subject to status and approval. 18+. UK residents only. Pay in 3 is a form of credit. Check if affordable and how you will repay. May make other borrowing more difficult or expensive. See product terms for more details