Fitness

The Best Exercise Equipment For Low-Impact Workouts

Get your sweat on without all the stress on your joints.

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If you aren’t in the mood to run or jump in your sweat session, no worries. There’s a whole host of low-impact exercise equipment at the gym that you can hop on whenever you want to reduce stress on your joints, overcome an injury, or just take it easy.

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What Is Low Impact?

A low-impact workout means no jumping, hopping, or running, says Helen O'Leary, a physiotherapist at Complete Pilates. Think gliding instead of running, for example. The goal is to stay in contact with the ground or machine to reduce strain on your joints.

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Rowing Machine

Hop on a rowing machine to work out while you sit. The pull motion builds strength in your upper and lower body, boosts cardio, improves your posture by strengthening your back, and helps with range of motion, O’Leary says. Just make sure you’re using good form.

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Weights

Whether you grab a dumbbell, swing a kettlebell, or use a lat pulldown machine, O’Leary says weight lifting of any kind is considered low impact — as long as you stay firmly on the ground. “This is a great option for resistance training your whole body,” she says.

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Stationary Bike

Try an upright stationary bike the next time you want to do a cardio workout without adding extra wear and tear to your joints. “The cyclical movement is great for getting your joints moving freely, too” O’Leary says. “You can modify the resistance as well.”

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Recumbent Bike

Kick back on a recumbent bike for a smooth cycle. “Since your feet never break contact with the pedals, the impact is minimal, but the benefits to the muscles are enormous,” says coach Anthony Mariato, PT. It’ll train your hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads.

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VersaClimber

A VersaClimber is an upright climbing machine that engages your whole body as you climb using all your limbs at once — all without any impact. “It’s seriously hardcore and will really challenge your heart rate and coordination,” O’Leary says.

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Elliptical

O’Leary also recommends the good old-fashioned elliptical for the ultimate gliding experience. You can do a HIIT workout, a gentle warm-up, or a full-on cardio session that works your legs, back, and arms, and improves your balance.

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Recumbent Elliptical

Try out the Physiostep or Nustep — aka a recumbent elliptical — whenever you want to put less load on your joints, O’Leary says. “They will help with confidence whilst you are building strength and so allow you to do more than you expect,” she notes.

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Stair Stepper

You can go easy on the stair stepper at your gym or kick up the speed and add extra moves — like a leg lift — for a full-body workout. According to Mariato, the stair stepper is lower impact than a treadmill, and a good choice if you’re looking to spare your knees.

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Treadmill

If you go slow and easy on a treadmill, you can get a good workout without rattling your joints, especially when compared to running outside, Mariato says. To build your endurance and work the leg muscles, try incline intervals or the TikTok famous 12-3-30 workout.

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Resistance Bands

Resistance bands can also be great for low-impact exercises,” notes trainer TJ Mentus. They keep a consistent tension in your muscles, he says, so you build strength and stability in your joints.