4 Low-Impact Exercises That Deliver Big Results

Jessica Thiefels
by Jessica Thiefels
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4 Low-Impact Exercises That Deliver Big Results

Joint pain is an issue for millions of Americans, with 10 million people experiencing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and 1 percent of the world suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis. That’s not all — low back pain was found to affect 1 in 10 people around the world.

If you’re one of the many people living with joint pain, the reality is that your body needs low-impact exercises. Luckily, many of these movements, like rowing and TRX squats, also deliver big results, allowing you build strength, reduce pain and learn new skills in the process. Here are a few low-impact exercises to try during your next workout.


The plank is a great exercise for building core and shoulder strength, and with so many variations, you can use it to target other areas of your body like your glutes and obliques. However, the plank movement can be challenging for people with wrist pain, which makes holding the weight of your body extremely painful.

Alleviate weight in your wrists by staying on your forearms, rather than being in a full pushup position. From here, you can still perform a variety of variations including plank jacks and hip dips.

If your wrists can stand some weight, try blocks or dumbbells to help take some pressure off of your wrists.


Rowing is a great way to improve your cardiovascular endurance while building full-body strength and reducing pain in your ankles and knees.

“The movement can be linked to the same joint mechanics as a squat and deadlift in that the ankles, knees, and hips go through flexion at their respective joints,” says James Shapiro, owner of Primal Power. He continues, “In addition to working the legs, the core becomes engaged and the final part of the concentric motion includes using back musculature.”

Most gyms, even smaller ones, will have at least one rowing machine available, so getting access to one should be relatively easy. Use this video to learn proper rowing technique before your first rowing session.


TRX is an amazing tool for every athlete, especially those who need low-impact exercises. While it takes some of the strain off your knees, it brings a new challenge to your arm, chest and back muscles, allowing you to reduce any potential pain while improving upper body strength. A few exercises to try, include:

  • Forward, backward and alternating lunges
  • Squat, 1-leg squat
  • Split squat
  • Skaters

Most gyms have TRX bands hanging in the functional fitness area. If not, consider purchasing a set yourself. With an anchor, you can use them anywhere, including your house and backyard.


Rock climbing is not only a more social exercise experience, but it challenges your body in new way — that’s probably why it was voted the #2 most popular indoor hobby in 2016. The best part is that it’s ideal for people who need low-impact options.

Rock climbing builds strength in your entire body, right down to your fingers and toes. However, it’s easy on your joints, with minimal jumping or jerky movements. The goal is to glide from one point to the next, slowly scaling the wall while staying in control of your body and movements.

Look online to find a local rock climbing gym and ask for an introductory session. They’ll teach you how to use proper form and technique, which is critical for safe training.

About the Author

Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels

Jessica has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness in San Diego. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and more.


8 responses to “4 Low-Impact Exercises That Deliver Big Results”

  1. Avatar Sophie says:

    Rowing is seriously boring unless you are doing reps. I once did a 60 minute easy row and it was really boring even when I was watching something! I was doing it as cross training. Now if I row I tend to stick to mini reps, do about 5 then do some push ups in between and start again. You get a very good cardio work out with them.

    Absolutely love climbing though – wish I had time to do it more often.

    • Avatar Jessica Thiefels says:

      Intervals always make workouts more fun, so true! I also agree—I wish I was able to climb more often! Thanks for checking it out 🙂

    • Avatar Tracy Binol says:

      60 minutes of rowing? Are you supposed to row that long? I can see if you are an actual rower and that is your sport, but I have never heard of anyone who rows for that long. My husband works in physical therapy and he always says to do set of exercises, such as 30 pulls 3 times, and work your way up to more pulls or more times, even if you break it up with other exercises between sets.

      • Avatar Sophie says:

        It was cross training when I had a dodgy foot so my running was reduced for a couple of weeks – my coach set it and I had to do it in a certain heart rate zone. Very temporary – I did that and a couple of 45 min ones in certain heart rate zones. By the end of the 2 weeks though, I could not have possibly done any more rowing.

        However I did a stint of rowing but sets like your Husband suggests to complement my running and that was completely fine. I enjoyed that immensely. Very easy to work a nice sweat up on a rower 🙂

        My rowing machine isn’t that great though – it was a freebie my MIL found at the dump!

  2. Avatar Robin says:

    Loved this article.. I love rowing so was glad to hear it’s a good cardio option with all over benefits (my knee’s and ankles love it due to a prev ankle injury).. plus you can close your eyes and almost hear the water…. or with some rowers you can literally hear the water!

  3. Avatar Catherine Lee says:

    I love these ideas and exercises. Problem is that I have fibromyalgia aso well as degenerative disk disease and arthritis of the spine. I just can’t do upper body exerciseshop without being disabled completely in agony for a week. Really not sure what I can do instead. My legs and knees are strong, but even walking causes my lower back and hips to seize up in agony, then having to use a cane to walk for days. But I want to get in shape badly! I can’t possibly afford a special trainer, being on disability. Any ideas?

    • Avatar Elizabeth says:

      I would look into focusing on eccentric and isometric types of muscle contractions. These engage more muscle fibers while protecting you from micro tears that are most likely what you’re referring to with the crippling results (micro tears in the muscle take far more days and sometimes weeks to heal vs normal soreness or DOMS). Start slow, drop weight and breathe, breathe, breathe.

      Invest in good support tools such as a back brace, elbow or knee wrap and the likes.. It will offer more support until you’re (slowly) able to lean on them less and less.


  4. Avatar Kaicheng Hu says:

    Great suggestions!! I’ve tried plank at home, and rowing and TRX in club. I like all of them.
    I haven’t tried rock climbing yet. That’ll be next thing I’d like to explore.

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