Seven Low-Impact Exercises to Add to Your Fitness Routine
When we talk about fitness, the initial assumption is often that the movement is intense—rigorous even. While that can absolutely be the case, especially with certain bootcamp and HIIT-inspired classes, it's not the only type of exercise that exists. Enter low-impact movements. Much more gentle on the joints, these motions are especially beneficial for those with knee and hip problems, folks who are new to working out, and those recovering from injuries (or living with chronic pain). The reason? Despite being low impact, Brrrn founding trainer Coco Minot assures us that the movements are still extremely effective, since they can get your heart rate up sans jumping. Intrigued? Ahead, with the help of Minot and the ness co-founder and trainer Colette Dong, you'll find seven low-impact exercises worth incorporating into your routine.
Free Arm Circles
"I love using dance-inspired upper body movements without weights," Dong says. "It's an amazing way to warm up, work on upper body endurance, and improve posture." To perform free arm circles, extend your arms out to the side, making a T-shape with your body. From there, move your arms in small, slow circles. Perform three 60-second reps before switching directions and circling backward, explains Dong.
Curtsy Lunges to Sidekicks
To elevate your heart rate, improve your posture, challenge your balance, and strengthen your lower body, Minot recommends curtsy lunges to sidekicks. "To do this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart with hands on your hips," she instructs. "Shift your weight into your right foot, and step your left foot diagonally behind you. Bend both knees as you lunge down, lowering your left knee until it almost touches the floor. Press up through your right heel to stand, and as you straighten your legs, kick your left leg out to the side. Return to [your original] standing position."
Once you complete one rep, Minot says to keep going; perform 30 seconds of movement followed by 10 seconds of rest, completing three rounds total. When working through this motion, Minot says to keep your hips squared, shoulders down, and back and torso upright. "Make sure your front knee doesn't go past the toes, and that both feet are pointing forward, not at an angle—this will protect your knees," she says. If after a few rounds you feel sufficiently stable, Minot says that you can elevate the movement by adding a resistance band to the mix. "Position it around your legs just above your knees," she says. "This will really work your abductors!"
Standing Core Work
If laying down on the ground to work your abs feels out of the question (or if it's simply uncomfortable every time you attempt it), Dong recommends standing core work. "Standing abdominal exercises work to support the core, back, and obliques. It improves posture, stability, and range of motion," she explains. Before you get going, Dong says to stand with a soft bend in your knees, with your hips pointing straight forward. While keeping the hips steady, isolate your rib cage and move it side to side, bending at the waist. "Utilize your breath and keep your belly button pulled into your spine," she says, noting to perform the movement for five 60-second intervals, with a few seconds of rest in between.
Plank to Push-Up
"This exercise is great for building strength and power, but also has the added benefit of developing hip mobility," Minot shares, noting that it requires moving your upper and lower body in unison, thus improving coordination and body awareness. To perform a plank to push-up, Minot says to begin in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders and feet hip-width apart. "Bend your knees and bring your glutes towards your heels, straightening your elbows and keeping hands where they are," she instructs, noting that your knees should be hovering just above the floor. "Keep your core tight, return to a high plank position, and then lower down into a push-up. Press up through your hands to return to your high plank starting position."
While this is a tougher movement for some, Minot says that performing it for time rather than reps can make it more approachable. Just remember to keep your core tight and back flat throughout the entire sequence. "When doing the push-up, keep your spine neutral, and avoid arching or caving your lower back," Minot adds. "Keep your hips in line with your shoulders, and they should move together as you lower and rise from the push-up." Of course, if you need to modify, Minot says it's absolutely acceptable to drop to your knees for the push-up portion.
While a trampoline might not seem very low-impact, Dong, who specialized in beat-based, low-impact, and high-intensity trampoline cardio and sculpt workouts, assures us that they can be. "Using a mini-trampoline or rebounder is an excellent way to raise your heart rate without the added joint impact that comes with many cardio exercises," she says. "Not only is it great for your heart, but the trampoline provides additional benefits like lymphatic drainage and improved coordination." Best of all, it's one of the easiest workouts out there in terms of pure mechanics—simply run in place on the rebounder. "Lift your knees into your chest while keeping your tailbone long and your legs parallel," she says. "Drive your elbows back with energy and continuously run for five minutes." Once you feel confident enough to run for five minutes, Dong says to increase the duration and watch your stamina improve.
Rather than jumping down into a burpee and popping back up to stand, Minot recommends slowing down the classic motion to transform it into a low-impact exercise. "I like this movement because it works the entire body, and you can easily scale the intensity up or down by varying the tempo," she says. To perform a quiet burpee, stand with your feet hip-width apart and with your arms by your sides. "Bend your knees as you reach your hands forward, placing them on the floor in front of you," Minot instructs. "One at a time, step your legs back so you come into a high plank position. Your hands should be under your shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Step your feet back in one at a time, and as you stand back up, reach your arms overhead." No jumping—just steady movement that will increase your heart rate the faster you go.
Dong is a big fan of planks thanks to their zero-equipment nature and full-body benefits. "Planks will make you stronger and likely always stay challenging," she says. For a toe-tap variation, Dong says to begin in a high plank with your hands pressed into the ground, beneath your shoulders. Maintain a soft bend in your elbows and a flexed core and glutes. From there, tap one foot out at a time, moving laterally to the right and left. "Try to maintain control as you start to move your leg," Dong says, noting to only move your flexed legs, extending your toes out. "Try for three sets of 12 taps," she suggests.