The Best Low-Impact Exercises for Joint Health

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Physical Therapy in Kansas City Helps Reduce Joint Pain and Speed Recovery

Don’t be fooled by its moniker.

Low-impact exercise can be just as intense and effective as its high-impact counterparts. The difference is that low-impact exercise requires far less load- or weight-bearing movements. It can still get your heart pumping, strengthen your muscles, and improve flexibility and balance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week to help maintain a healthy weight for you, reduce the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and strengthen your body to prevent injury or bounce back from a joint replacement surgery.

Before starting any exercise regimen, even a low-impact one, be sure to ask your doctor (and orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist, if you’re recovering from an injury or surgery).


Modern yoga for exercise is derived from a Hindu spiritual practice. It combines both physical movements and mental concentration that builds strength and flexibility while relieving stress.

Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that doesn’t involve jumping, running, or free weights. You can practice yoga from almost anywhere, and plenty of instructional videos are available online to get you started.

There are multiple types of yoga, with vinyasa being a faster-paced, flowing form. Other forms of yoga, like yin or “slow flow” are options for people looking to get started in this form of exercise.


If flexibility and core strength is your goal, pilates can help! Its focus on improving postural alignment can even help relieve lower back pain.

You can do pilates with special equipment, or without it, but slow and precise movements and controlling your breath are at the foundation of this workout. Many pilates movements involve your core (including your abs and especially your back), but like yoga, it is a full-body workout that doesn’t include jumping or other high-impact movements.


Every gym in America is equipped with at least one rowing machine. Rowing builds total-body strength while giving you a great cardio workout. And because it doesn’t involve weight-bearing on your knees, if you have joint pain, rowing is low-impact, but still intense!

Proper form is important when rowing to get the most benefits and prevent strains. For each row, you’ll want to push through your heels and use your upper body as your hands pass your knees before returning to your starting position. If you need help learning the proper form, be sure to ask a trainer for advice.

If you find out you love rowing, you can even purchase a rowing machine for at-home workouts. While they tend to be pricier than treadmills, the whole-body workout you get makes them worth it.


Walking is excellent cardio exercise, especially if you keep a pace of at least three miles per hour. (If you can’t, don’t worry! Work up to it. Everyone starts somewhere.)

Walking can strengthen your heart and lungs and work your large leg muscles and glutes. One of the best parts about walking is that everyone has access to somewhere they can walk, whether it’s around your neighborhood, at the gym, on the high school track, or even around the mall.

Before you begin a walking regimen, especially if you’re walking on extra-hard surfaces like pavement, you’ll want to purchase a pair of quality shoes that properly support your feet and body. Shoes are, perhaps, the only necessary expense for walking!


TRX straps rely on gravity and your own body weight to deliver a strength-building cardio workout. This form of suspension training is probably best done at the gym, unless you have a set of straps and a place to hang them at home.

Each movement on the TRX can be modified for skill level and strength, and the straps help you support yourself better than if you were laying on the floor, doing the same exercises.

An additional form of cardio exercise after your TRX training is a great way to round-out your workout.


When you swim, you experience less gravitational force on your body while still getting the resistance you need to build muscle strength and overall fitness.

When you swim, you work your whole body against the water, and you can choose swimming strokes that don’t affect pain points. For example, if the breaststroke hurts your shoulders, a front-crawl may not.

Then there’s the temperature factor! Swimming in cool water may help reduce inflammation and swelling, while warmer water helps relieve muscle tightness and soreness.

Exercise as Pain Management and Injury Prevention

Building up strong muscles can reduce your risk of sustaining an injury and provides more support for ailing joints and backs. Low-impact exercise is also an important component of physical therapy and sports medicine, so your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist may recommend forms of exercise for you to try as you heal.

For help with body pains from injuries or just wear-and-tear, find an orthopedic surgeon near you at Mid-America Orthopedics. Contact us to make an appointment.

Mid-America Orthopedics KC
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November 1

By joining Sano, we are able to improve your access to care and increase the range of specialties available.

Locations available in Lee's Summit, Grandview, Leawood, Paola, Garnett

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