Important Update: Calorie Count will be shutting down on March 15th. Please click here to read the announcement. Data export is available.
subscribe Signup for our Newsletter expand Expand Browser
Calorie Count Blog

Low Impact Workouts That Work

By kimfitness on Mar 11, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

The push for regular exercise or physical activity is increasing more and more in the wake of our country’s obesity epidemic. The belief that a person needs to do strenuous workouts that will burn mega calories in the shortest time frame has become unappealing to those that are older or those who have health conditions. People with health conditions, special needs, or musculoskeletal injuries (i.e. Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, Asthma, Lower back pain) may still engage in exercise activities with a physician’s approval and specific exercise modifications.  These exercise programs can be very effective if done correctly and within the guidelines listed below.

  1. Follow a low- or non-impact exercise program that progresses gradually.

  2. If your doctor clears you to do cardio or endurance training, stick to things like walking, stationary cycling, and swimming. 

  3. If cardio or endurance training is not recommended, try weight training but instead of heavy lifting use circuit training and keep the resistance low and the repetitions high. 

  4. Complete longer and more gradual warm-ups and cool downs. 

  5. Keep the durations of your workout short.  Start out with whatever feels comfortable (5-10 minutes) and increase to about 20-40 minutes.  

  6. Take more frequent breaks. 

Here are a few exercises that you can start with to maintain muscle mass and improve heart health while burning calories:

  1. Walking – Great for all fitness levels. 

  2. Rowing - Works your entire body and is low impact.

  3. Swimming (or other exercise in the pool) - Water reduces impact by up to 50% of your body weight if you're in waist-deep water, which may make exercise more comfortable. You can use water weights to increase strength in the pool.

  4. Weight training using your body's weight – You don’t need equipment to tone up. You can use your own body weight as resistance. Try extending your arms and clapping above your head until you feel the burn. This is an example of strength training with no weights. 

  5. Weight training with light dumbbells - Start off with small 2-5 pound dumbbells and increase over time. 

A mini circuit that you might want to try is 5-10 minutes of the stationary bike, 5-10 minutes of walking, 5-10 minutes of rowing with 1 minute of your favorite strength training move in between. You can increase or decrease the time frame of each depending on your starting level. Over time, you can improve your strength and endurance. 

I also love this low impact workout on Total Body Strength

For more low impact workouts visit my website at or keep coming back here to my Calorie Count blog every other Sunday. Also, tweet me to let me know how you do @kim_fitness. I love hearing from you. 


Thanks for your good ideas! I'm planning to implement some - especially the "clapping hands above my head" which should help firm up my flabby area under my upper arms that my daughter calls my "angel wings"!

I have absolutely fallen in love with this article! I have been working 36 hours a week and going to school 16 so I have had hardly any time to go to the gym. BUT with those workouts, I can do all of them at home! So great, thanks girl!

I have internal scar tissue from previous surgeries, so when I work out everything gets so painful that I give up.  I wish there was a way I could transition without hurting myself.  Thanks for thinking of us.

I've been disappointed about not being able to begin my running program because my knees are painful. I can easily follow the suggestions from the link in this article and get in a decent workout. It is so difficult to deal with a raggedy old body that refuses to cooperate! Gonna try and whip this sucka into shape before summer gets here :-)

Great Article!  I will offer your suggestions to folks who come to me for help and need low impact workout options.

I have pretty bad back problems and can't agree more with this article! I think about every movement I make when I exercise, it is when I am living everyday life that I tend to hurt myself!  Which I do less of now that I am strengthening my muscles through exercise and weights.

Finally! An article on exercising that makes sense.  More and more it's becoming a reality that even a small amount of exercise every day is so much  more beneficial than overdoing it and stopping all together.

Anything that you can do makes a difference. It is also a good place to start if you haven't been inside a gym in a long time or ever. Slow change can be monumental over time.

Anything that you can do makes a difference. It is also a good place to start if you haven't been inside a gym in a long time or ever. Slow change can be monumental over time.

Last night at work my right leg(back of thigh, knee and leg) pretty much wouldn't support my wieght. I have just gotten back to exercising after years of not doing it regularly, I am pretty disappointed. However your article is giving me some great ideas and hope.  I am determined not to quit, but needed to find some alternative types of work outs.  Thank You!!

Kim - I had prolapse surgery this past year, and realized that I am now restricted in the type of exercise I can do. I have to be careful not to put pressure or stress on the pelvic muscles or I can hurt or undo the repairs that were made. For me and the many others who have had this surgery, low impact is good, but I have to evaluate whether exercises like rowing or certain weight-training exercises could cause harm. Have any suggestions for us??

I do a lot of different exercises but I truly believe that plain old Walking with an attitude is the Fountain of Youth!! 

Comment Removed

i am so glad and appreciate this post. I walk. I have medical issues. One of the big ones is blocked arteries on the heart.  My walking has produced self made micro grafts. they are teeney tiny arteries that form on the heart from aerobic activity. the only aerobic activity i do is walking. Especially outside and in stores. If I have time when I am at Target or the grocery store, I grab a cart. all my coupons, coat and purse go in the cart. I walk briskly around the store before I start my shopping. A really go trip is when I forget something and have to go the opposite end of the store. 

Too many people underrate walking. Oh, yeah all this with my doctors blessings. 

Nordic walking is good, too.

I am just saying that you don't need any special equipment or go to the gym. 

when I had easy access to a gym at work I used to walk every day  on a treadmill. 

Walking any on any machine or surface is fantastic. 



Thank you for this article. I am on a heart transplant list and can't do any real aerobic activities. I walk about a mile to a mile and a half each day and try and stay as active as I can. Most magazine articles have very intense workouts and they're impossible for me to do, even sometimes with modifications. I like the low impact circuit you have laid out here and may have to give that a try!

Hula hooping is a great low-no impact full body cardio workout. I've had two kids and am now in a pants size smaller than I was in High school and my main exercise is hula hooping.

Comment Removed

Post Your Comment

Join Calorie Count - It's Easy and Free!