12 Low Impact Activities and Sports that are Gentle on Joints

low impact activities

It’s no secret that exercise and physical activity help to improve our overall fitness.

But as we age, aches and pains (as well as chronic conditions like arthritius) can unfortunately impact our ability to participate in high impact activities. Running, for example, is a great way to keep fit but if you struggle with bad knees, it can become a grueling activity that is simply unsustainable.

Or perhaps you start following that YouTube workout until they start jumping up and down and you face the reality that your knees and hips simply can’t take it.

Well, fear not… and don’t get disheartened about not being able to keep fit, because we’ve outlined some fantastic activites that are gentle on joints but pack a punch in terms of health benefits.

These low impact activities and sports will help keep you active, have fun and enjoy a more active lifestyle.

As well as these activities, try some low impact exercises outlined in our recent blog.

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Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking is a great activity to keep you fit whilst being gentle on joints. Nordic Walking involves walking with poles, which helps turn the average stroll around the park into a full body workout. The use of poles helps engage the core muscles, shoulders and arms.

The Nordic walking technique helps build functional strength, as well as providing a solid cardio workout.

This makes it a pretty good full body workout, without ever needing to do any squats or jumping.

The poles also help take some of the weight from your knees and ankles, creating a lower impact version of walking which can be helpful for those who struggle to walk long distances without feeling pain.

Yoga

Yoga offers plenty of gentle, low impact poses and flows. By it’s very nature, yoga is focused on flowing movements that are gentle on joints and avoid the high impact movements of other activities that can be an issue for some.

Although yoga is low imact, the movements are perfectly positioned to help build functional strength, improve flexibility and tone up your body.

Using a thick yoga mat can also help if you’ve got sore joints which is causing discomfort when doing any movements on the floor.

Yoga is all about progression so you can start with beginner movements and slowly increase the difficulty in your own time.

Pilates

Similar to yoga, Pilates focuses on movements that support core strength, flexibility and posture.

Although Pilates isn’t high tempo or made up of lots of high impact movements, the workouts can still be very challenging and leave you in a sweat, making it great for anyone looking to keep fit.

A lot of Pilates movements are focused on holding challenging poses, which builds strength and tones muscles, without needing to do high impact movements.

Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training, such as calisthenics, is focused on using your own bodyweight to act as resistance during workouts. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises and workouts you could do (some of which are low impact, some high impact), so it’s just about selecting the right sorts of workouts for you.

Lots of bodyweight exercises can be modified to suit the individual too. For example, if you find push-ups are too difficult, you can place your knees on the floor to make it slightly easier.

Swimming

Swimming is a great low impact activity as the water helps absorb a lot of the force, preventing high impact on joints.

If you’re feeling brave, try wild swimming or cold water swimming to provide a plethora of mental health benefits too.

Swimming helps build muscle as well as providing an effective cardio workout, so it’s a great all-round activity.

Cycling

Cycling is a great alternative to running if you’re looking to alleviate some of the impact on your joints. The route you follow is likely to impact the intensity of the cycle, so to begin with start with small cycle routes and work your way up to more intense journeys.

You can also buy bikes with motors to help add support going uphill, which could be an option if you’re a beginner and concerned about a few intimidating hills in your local area.

Golf

Golf is a popular sport with over 50’s and the low impact nature is likely a factor in this. Golf gets you out into the fresh air and offers an effective workout, which is gentle on the lower body. It may not be suitable if you have joint pain in the shoulders or upper body though so consult a health professional first if you have any doubts.

Golf clubs also usually have a thriving social scene, so it can be a great activity for those looking to meet new people too.

Walking Sports

Walking sports, such as walking cricket, offers a lower intensity (and lower impact) version of popular sports. This means you can keep playing your favourite sports, whatever your age.

Walking sports also offer a great social aspect too.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is very low impact and focuses on slow, controlled movements. It is ideal for anyone who wants to keep fit whilst staying relaxed and calm.

Tai chi is all about mindful movements and can be used to keep active without the need for any equipment.

Badminton

Badminton is a great sport to take up for anyone who wants a bit of competition that isn’t too high impact. Badminton involves more sharp movements than other activities on this list but overall, the sport can be played at quite a gentle pace.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing may be a bit of a surprise entry but it is actually a very effective strength activity that doesn’t involve any jumping or squatting movements. It is however very tough on the fingers and hands so it isn’t for everyone.

Pickleball

Pickleball is a new sport that is similar to tennis, but played at a slower pace. This means it is quite a gentle sport that is also great fun.

Related articles:

Low Intensity Interval Training

Best Gentle Exercises for Healthy Ageing

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