HomeMovement & FitnessWhat Is Low-Impact Movement?

What Is Low-Impact Movement?

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting fitness exercises. Low-impact activities, ranging from yoga to running, swimming to cycling, all offer benefits for improving cardiovascular fitness and getting into shape. The term ‘impact’ refers to the contact and force exerted on your bones and joints during physical activity. The extent of this impact varies based on your choice of exercise.

A movement is considered low-impact if it’s gentle on the body’s joints and can be performed smoothly. These exercises are accessible to individuals of all fitness levels, making them ideal for those recovering from injuries, aiming to reduce stress on their bodies, returning to exercise after a hiatus, or struggling with mobility and balance.

Low-impact movements encompass exercises that minimize strain on your muscles and joints, including swimming, walking, yoga, cycling, and Pilates. Swimming, in particular, utilizes the supportive properties of water to reduce impact. When cycling, you avoid the jarring impact of striking pavement or a treadmill. Other low-impact exercises like yoga, Pilates, and balance routines prioritize breathing, stretching, and flexibility over high-impact, strenuous movements typically designed for specific training objectives.

Despite its name, low-impact movement can be just as beneficial as high-impact alternatives. Engaging in low-impact exercise can enhance strength, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and decrease the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Excessive stress on joints during exercises like running or high-impact workouts can result in pain and future injuries. To alleviate this, integrating more low-impact exercises into your routine can provide much-needed relief.

Low-impact workouts typically prioritize strength, flexibility, balance, and alignment over calorie burning and muscle building. These movements are beneficial for enhancing stability and alignment while effectively increasing your heart rate without subjecting your body to the stress of high-impact activities. Research supports that low-impact exercises can raise your heart rate similar to high-impact ones while promoting overall strength and fitness.

In summary, various movements contribute to a strong heart and overall health. Low-impact exercises offer numerous advantages, including effective calorie burning and weight control. It’s essential to distinguish impact (the force on your body) from intensity (how challenging an exercise feels). Low-impact doesn’t equate to low intensity. High-intensity workouts aren’t exclusive to high-impact exercises. Research also shows that low-impact activities like walking, swimming, stair climbing, cycling, rowing, and aerobics can burn calories comparably to running, boxing, and high-impact exercises, all while being gentler on the body.

Many low-impact workouts enhance flexibility, reducing stiffness and muscle soreness. Activities like yoga, swimming, and Pilates strengthen and stretch your muscles, ultimately improving flexibility. Stretching, in particular, leads to increased range of motion, reduced muscle tightness, enhanced muscle length, improved circulation, and reduced pain.

To maintain a well-rounded exercise regimen, it’s beneficial to incorporate low-impact movements alongside your regular high-impact exercises. A consistent exercise routine offers numerous benefits for your mental and physical well-being.


Tse AC, Wong TW, Lee PH. Effect of Low-intensity Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Health in Older Adults: a Systematic Review. Sports Med Open. 

Varma VR, Tan EJ, Wang T, Xue QL, Fried LP, Seplaki CL, King AC, Seeman TE, Rebok GW, Carlson MC. Low-intensity walking activity is associated with better health. J Appl Gerontol.