How to Choose Between a High Impact and a Low Impact Workout

Two Methods:Low-Impact WorkoutsHigh-Impact Workouts

Workouts are often categorized as either high-impact or low-impact. This refers mainly to the force that the exercise exerts against your joints, including your spine and connective tissues like ligaments and tendons. Common high-impact exercises include contact sports, such as football, soccer or hockey, running and jumping. Low-impact workouts include walking, swimming and cycling. High-impact exercise increases bone density, but can be damaging when done to excess. Low-impact exercise should be done vigorously enough to reach moderate-intensity for heart and bone health. For many people the best choice is cross-training between these 2 types of exercise. The choice depends upon your overall health and exercise goals. Read more to find out how to choose between a high impact and a low impact workout.

Method 1
Low-Impact Workouts

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    Consult your doctor before working out if you are pregnant, have a chronic joint condition, such as arthritis, have a back condition, have previously injured a joint or if you are overweight. These conditions usually mean you must choose low-impact workouts. High-impact exercise with these conditions will likely cause further damage and chronic pain.
    • In general, the older you are, the more you should lean toward low-impact exercise at moderate intensity. Older tissues do not regenerate as quickly, so joint impact can lead to injury or chronic health problems. If you are older and enjoy running or team sports, make sure to reduce the intensity as you age and alter between low and high-impact exercise.
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    Start with low-impact workouts if you are new to exercise. Although you may work up to high-impact exercise, you should condition your heart and lungs using low-impact workouts such as swimming, cycling or fast walking.
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    Swim, water jog or take aqua aerobics classes if you have fibromyalgia, arthritis or a similar condition. Water exercise lowers the impact of all motion because you are suspended in water. Check for local swimming or water exercise classes at a gym or community center.
    • Most pools supply water belts and dumbbells, which are important tools to use with water exercise. The water belt goes around your waist and suspends you in the water, further lowering the impact of motion and keeping you afloat. You can march, jog or bicycle with your legs in the deep end to achieve moderate intensity. The dumbbells can be used for resistance training for your arms, chest, shoulders and back.
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    Try walking, hiking or cycling if you like to exercise outdoors. These exercises can create an adventure out of exercise. Make sure to wear shoes with good arch supports, and aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise where your breathing is elevated.
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    Choose low-impact classes, such as low-impact step aerobics, Zumba or dancing, if you like to workout with other people. These classes should be taken regularly for best results. Avoid jumping motions, if they are included in the routine.
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    Do circuit training at a local gym. This is a type of interval-based exercise that uses isometric exercises, weight machines and other exercise aids to improve strength. When done in succession for at least 30 minutes, it can raise your breathing and heart rate and be considered a cardiovascular low-impact workout.
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    Alternate your cardio workouts, such as cycling, swimming or hiking with strength-training workouts. In general, impact refers to cardiovascular exercise, so strength-training or isometric exercises are usually considered no-impact exercise. The following exercises have little to no impact on your joints and can help to strengthen bones:
    • Yoga in most of its forms does not have an impact on your joints. However, it can increase balance and muscle tone as it relaxes you and stretches your muscles. Some types of yoga, such as flow yoga sometimes include jumps, which should be modified for low-impact to slow, steady movements.
    • Pilates uses your own body weight to firm and tone the core muscles of your body. This will help you to keep good form when you are doing cardiovascular exercises. Most pilates videos, classes and the movements themselves can be modified based on your health conditions and strength.
    • Light weight-lifting is a great way to increase muscle tone as you age. Make an appointment with a personal trainer to get advice about what weights and motions are appropriate for your fitness level.

Method 2
High-Impact Workouts

  1. Image titled Choose Comfortable Walking Shoes Step 5
    Choose jogging or running, if you want to train or lose weight. You should already be used to low-impact workouts of moderate intensity and be in good health. Pick shoes with good arch supports, cushioning and traction.
    • Jogging and running are popular, versatile workouts because they can be done outside or inside, on a treadmill. You will also meet weight loss goals more quickly through running than walking because the intensity of the workout is greater.
    • Start jogging or running short distances and increase your pace and your mileage slowly to avoid common injuries, such as shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome, and sore toes, heels and arches of the feet.
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    Choose team sports, such as basketball, football, soccer, volleyball and even tennis if you prefer to workout with people. Team sports can be excellent confidence boosters for children, teens and adults. They are a great way to enjoy a jovial, game atmosphere while you get your weekly exercise.
    • Make sure to wear all the protective gear that is recommended for your specific sport.
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    Do interval training, if you are attempting to train for a military boot camp, an upcoming sports season, a marathon or another race. You can contact a personal trainer or find workouts online that rotate jogging and sprinting. They help to develop your body both aerobically and anaerobically, increasing both speed and endurance.
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    Try a boot camp class, if you already workout but would like to boost your training or weight loss goals. These camps are done for 1 to 4 hours at a time, and they include running, jumping, strength training and isometrics.
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    Learn to cross-train between high-impact and low-impact exercise. For example, you should often alternate the days you do a high-impact workout, a low-impact workout and strength-training. This will give your body a chance to rest, and allow you to maintain your shape without injury.
    • Too much high-impact exercise is unhealthy for the joints. Many trainers recommend that you allow your body to rest a few days out of the week. You may choose to alternate with walking, swimming or no-impact exercise, or avoid exercise altogether 1 to 2 days out of the week.


  • Health professionals recommend that you get at least 175 minutes of moderate-intensity, low-impact exercise or 90 minutes of high-impact, high intensity exercise per week.
  • Many people find that alternating between high, low and no-impact workouts helps to make exercise more fun and less of a chore. Ultimately, you should choose a workout that you enjoy.


  • Talk to your doctor before choosing your workout if you have any health conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • Doctor's advice
  • Good walking or running shoes
  • Gym membership
  • Sports protective gear
  • Pool
  • Water-jogging belt
  • Water dumbbells
  • Weights
  • Personal trainer
  • Workout classes

Article Info

Categories: Personal Fitness