6 Low-Impact Workouts that Burn the Most Calories

Low-Impact Workouts

Your workout doesn’t have to be high impact to get a high-impact return on your exercise investment. These calorie-crushing exercises can be whatever you make them, from leisurely pleasurable all the way up to intense interval training, all while staying low impact. Check out our top high-calorie-burning, low-impact workout options.

Top 6 Low-Impact Workouts

1 Swimming

It doesn’t get much more low-impact than swimming! Just about everyone can swim since it’s so easy on the body. Whether you have a little weight to lose, or a lot, swimming is gentle on the joints. Even those with injuries can usually manage a swim.

And, did you know that when you swim, the average 200-pound person can burn almost 900 calories an hour? It’s true! The fact that you have to pull your body through water, coupled with the “cooler than body temperature” water, and you have a lot of calorie-burning potential. That’s why this low-impact, calorie-burning exercise is number one on the list!

2. Rowing Machine

This machine is usually seen abandoned at most gyms and fitness facilities. Or at best, it’s used in short spurts by the fittest of the fit. Why is this? It’s because this machine is tough! That said, it’s totally worth it!

The action of rowing requires you to use your legs, your arms, your back, and your core (for stability). Pulling with your upper body to move forward and then propelling yourself backwards with your lower body provides a powerful fat-burning combo. You can mix it up by doing intervals of faster and slower work to really maximize your calorie burning. Speaking of calorie burning, the average 200-pound person can burn between 78 and 189 calories in a mere 15 minutes, depending on how hard you push it.

3. Hiking

Not just your average walk, hiking can pack a real punch when it comes to maxing out your calorie burn. Burning over 600 calories an hour for a 200-pound individual, hiking is a lot more than just sightseeing. Uneven terrain, intense inclines, steep declines, climbing over rocks and roots, and trekking over challenging trails provides the perfect combination of low-impact workout with high-calorie-burn potential.

Ramp up your intensity by throwing on a heavy backpack or hiking a little faster. You’ll work your whole body, including muscles and stabilizers, you’ll improve your balance, and boost your stamina all while enjoying some incredible scenery and fresh air.

4. Skiing

Whether snow skiing, water skiing, or cross-country skiing, this activity is a fantastic low-impact workout that will have you burning massive amounts of calories. Not only does skiing get you into the great outdoors, but it can really boost your cardiovascular fitness at the same time.

You’ll also be using your core and your leg muscles relentlessly throughout, so you’ll strengthen your muscles, joints, and ligaments while carving out a sexy core—all without adding any high impact moves. Add to that the coordination and balance required to stay upright on skis and you just may have the perfect workout (disguised as a fun way to recreate).

5. Elliptical

Don’t forget about the quintessential elliptical machine, the mother of all low-impact workouts. If you really want to crush some calorie-burning goals and get yourself in tiptop cardiovascular shape, this is the machine for you. Found at nearly every fitness center everywhere, this body-friendly piece of equipment looks innocent enough, and dare we say, even fun, but the calorie-burn potential of this machine is immense.

Many of these will come with moving parts for both your arms and your legs (you will occasionally encounter an elliptical with only pedals). The fact that you’re moving your limbs quickly and repeatedly is tempered by the fact that you have no jarring movements since everything is circular in nature. Whereas running, for example, requires a hard stop with each foot fall, an elliptical allows for a continuous gliding motion that can target the legs, calves, glutes, back, chest, arms, and abs.

Increasing the intensity or the angle of the pedals can also mean a more intense cardiovascular workout for you as well. This machine is truly a win-win for those looking for low-impact, calorie-burning gold.

6. Stair Stepper

It’s easy to have a love-hate relationship with this particular machine since it provides such an intense workout. This escalator-like movement requires you to use all the muscles in your lower body, which means a lot of calorie burn. You can pick different levels of difficulty as well as various programs like high-intensity interval workouts, fat-burning training, or manual settings.

Keep in mind, if you choose a more intense level of workout, keep your hands on the handles for safety purposes. Once you boost the speed of the steps, it can be hard to take your hand off the handles to turn it back down!

No matter which type of exercise you choose, you can always mix up your workouts by doing interval training to increase your level of fat burning. Remember to warm up thoroughly first by either doing a very easy level on the equipment you’re about to use, or by taking a gentle five-minute walk or doing some other easy movements. After your workout, finish off with a gentle cooldown and stretch as well.