Low-Impact Workouts with High Caloric Burns

Maximize the calories you burn and the muscles you work with some low-impact workouts.


By Sara Vallejo


Low impact doesn’t have to mean easy or ineffective. Whatever your reason for choosing to add low-impact exercises into your fitness regimen, there are a few workouts you should consider for maximum calories burned and muscles worked.

What’s high and what’s low (and who are they good for)?

High-impact exercises involve jumping and jarring motions that put stress on the skeletal system. Running and jumping activities where both feet leave the ground are considered high impact. Thinking running, plyometrics, skipping rope, or dance or aerobic classes that involve jumping. While high impact exercises can lead to injury or wear and tear on the joints of the legs and back, there’s mounting evidence that high-impact exercise may actually help strengthen bones and reduce bone loss as we age. HIgh-impact exercises are best for those with a high fitness baseline and who are at a low risk for joint injury.

Low and no-impact exercises place less stress on the body by avoiding the jarring motions of high-impact exercise (running is called pounding the pavement for a reason!). Typically speaking, an exercise is considered low-impact if at least one foot remains planted on the ground at all times or the body is in some way supported, whether by water in the case of swimming or aqua aerobics or by a machine. These types of exercises are appropriate for beginners, individuals with bone, connective tissue or joint-related issues (injuries, arthritis or osteoporosis), those recovering from injuries, older adults, heavier individuals and pregnant women.

But even if you’ve achieved a high level of fitness, you may find that you benefit from adding low-impact exercises into your routine. Lower impact doesn’t have to mean less effective or easy! Here are three types of exercise to consider.

1. Swimming (and other forms of water exercise)

If you think hopping in the pool means you’re in for an easy workout, think again. While your body is supported during water exercise, you’re also encountering 12-14% more resistance than you would on land.

Swimming keeps your heart rate up while providing a full-body workout--you work almost every skeletal muscle when swimming, helping improve muscle tone. An hour of swimming can burn up to 800 calories, depending on intensity, putting it right up there with running for caloric burn.

2. Rowing/ergometer workouts

Often called the new spinning, rowing can burn as many calories per hour as swimming. And rowing does more than torch up to 800 calories an hour: like swimming, rowing combines cardio and strength training for an unbeatable full-body workout. Rowing works the core and lower body just as hard as it works the upper body, so be prepared to feel the burn in your glutes and abs!

3. Cycling

Whether in a spin class, out on the gym floor on a stationary bike or even out on the trails, cycling is a great cardiovascular low-impact exercise. High-intensity cycling, like spinning classes, can burn up to 600 calories an hour. Cycling can also be easy to incorporate into your everyday schedule, too, since it doubles as an eco-friendly form of commuting.

Just remember to practice bike safety if you take to the streets!

As with any workout regardless of your fitness level, be sure to listen to your body when trying any new form of exercise. If you experience pain (and not that good old burn in your muscles), don’t push through it. Speak with a physician to ensure the exercise is safe for you to do and if possible, work with a trainer to perfect your form to reduce the risk of injury.

Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.

Main Photo Credit: William Perugini/; Second Photo Credit: l i g h t p o e t/; Third Photo Credit: kovop58/