7 Low-Impact Workouts That Torch Major Calories

Lose weight—and go easy on your joints—with these aerobic exercises.

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You don’t have to let low back pain, an achy knee or an ankle that hasn’t been the same since you sprained it last summer stop you from working out. Low-impact workouts can actually help. These workouts don’t involve much pounding or jumping and most importantly, they put less strain on muscles and joints.

Moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and help you lose weight. Some low impact exercises may even help elongate your body, and improve your posture and flexibility.

Whether you’re getting over an injury or you just want to add some variety to your fitness plan, here are seven low-impact workouts to try, stat. Your joints will thank you!

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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Appropriate for all age groups, walking may be the most convenient low-impact exercise on the list. It’s easy on your joints and may even keep people with osteoporosis from losing bone mass. But that’s not all. Walking can boost your mood, help you burn calories, strengthen your leg and abdominal muscles and increase the blood circulation to your joints.

Grab a friend and walk the neighborhood once a day for 30 minutes—you can catch up with one another and shed pounds at the same time.

Calories burned per hour, based on 160-pound woman: 276 (walking at a speed of 3.5 mph)

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The 11 million Americans who practice yoga can’t be wrong: This ancient practice of uniting the mind, body and spirit using postures, breathing techniques and meditation is known for lowering stress levels.

Not only will yoga ease your mind, the practice can improve your flexibility and posture, helping you stand taller even after you leave class. Those suffering from chronic conditions like back pain, arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome may notice pain relief while practicing yoga, too.

Find an outdoor class in the park or head inside for hot yoga to de-stress and tone up.

Calories burned per hour based on a 160-pound woman: 218

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Indoor cycling, biking

Whether you hit the pavement with your road bike or check out a spinning class down the street, you’re likely to work up a sweat.

As long as your bike is set up properly and you have the appropriate shoes, indoor cycling poses little harm to your knees, hips and ankle joints. There’s no pounding involved thanks to the fluid circular motion that allows you to flex and extend your lower limbs with ease.

Outdoor biking is good for you, too. Assorted terrains make for an automatic interval workout, without all the impact on your lower body. Biking is also family-friendly: try biking to the local neighborhood restaurant for dinner on the weekends or load up the bikes and hit the trails one Saturday afternoon.

Calories burned per hour based on a 160-pound woman: 435 (biking at a speed of 10-12 mph)

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It depends on what kind of class you attend, but most barre workouts combine ballet-style exercises with yoga-inspired moves. It’s common for routines to involve small one-inch movements targeting smaller muscle groups that may be overlooked during other workouts.

Standing exercises using the ballet barre and mat exercises on the floor will tone your core, improve your flexibility, stability, mobility and balance without putting extra stress on your joints. Barre workouts are low impact because they involve isometric training—workouts that use your body weight to strengthen joints and improve mobility.

Calories burned per hour based on a 160-pound woman: 218

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Elliptical workouts

Some say the monotonous elliptical movement is boring and doesn’t yield results. But that’s not the case. Elliptical workouts provide a safe and effective workout, especially if you’re nursing a joint or muscle injury.

Elliptical workouts prevent all of your body weight from striking the ground, which means you’ll increase your heart rate without putting much stress on your knees, hips and lower back.

Bonus: Some elliptical machines have upper body handles that allow you to work your arms at the same time. Try built-in programs with steeper inclines for a more intense workout.

Calories burned per hour based on 160-pound woman: 653

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Water-based exercises

Water exercises like swimming or pool aerobics can help people of all ages, as well as people living with a variety of health conditions.

For people with arthritis, these exercises improve mobility, and help relieve joint pain or stiffness. Post-menopausal women who practice water exercises experience improved bone and muscle strength, and fewer falls. And for older adults, practicing water-based activities helps slow the onset of disability.

Try your local gym’s water aerobics classes or hit the lap pool for a relaxing solo workout.

Calories burned per hour based on a 160-pound woman: 290 for water aerobics; 218-726 for swimming

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The rowing machine—also known as an ergometer—is a piece of equipment you’ve likely seen at the gym but may have passed up. It might be time to put it to use, though, because doing so can help you tone up and burn calories. This type of workout focuses on the upper body and legs mostly, but is considered a total-body workout.

Because it’s an impact-free and non-weight-bearing workout, your joints aren’t going to suffer—a huge plus for anyone with joint pain or other orthopedic concerns.

Make sure to use proper form, though: ask a trainer or employee at your local gym for some pointers to be sure you’re doing the moves correctly.

Calories burned per hour based on a 160-pound woman: 511

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